HomeHistory The Collective

CHAPTER SIX
PRODUCTION TEAM TIMES

 

The production team ( shengchan dui ) was begun in 1964 and ended in 1981. Xiakou residents say that during this period, some of the good aspects that characterized the 1950s-- especially the development of rural infrastructure-- were continued: The 1960s brought electricity to the area, more road development, and the construction of two irrigation canals above the village on either side of the valley. Official corruption was held in check and crime rates were said to be low. Also, throughout the Maoist period the farmers could feel that they were at the center of the effort to develop the nation. The presence of the "sent-down youth" in the countryside during the 1960s and 1970s underlined the high status of the peasantry; the farmers led the urban youth, teaching them about production. There were many policies to benefit the farmer: credit was available and interest was cheap; they had better access health care; education costs were low. All these items contrast to what is happening today: villagers feel that today the cities are the main beneficiaries of programs for economic development, while the terms of trade for the farmers are declining-- basic necessities are costing more in a time when their income has remained unchanged, and official corruption has increased, effecting things as basic as their access to credit to buy fertilizer.

 

While some aspects of life and relations with the government of the 1960s and 1970s are appreciated today, farmers' portraits of the period reveal that political campaigns and limited opportunity for advancement accentuated social contradictions and conflict within the village. In the continuing political campaigns of the period, attacks on "class enemies" is generally felt to have involved personal more than class contradictions. Advantage came from gaining access to limited official privilege, and disadvantage belonged to those against whom the rhetoric of the state could be turned. It was a near-zero-sum-game. Thus the villagers' relationship with government became the story of painfully petty personal and political struggles among individuals. Furthermore, the mode of production, that is "the production team," is squarely rejected by these farmers. 1958 represents an important water mark after which private family based production was severely limited. In the commune period, production collectivized at the commune level; During production team times, economic units were smaller and the team (around 75 individuals in 1964) became the level at which earnings were shared. That the village was tied together into a "common pot" was, from their view, an unnatural arrangement that doomed them to poverty.

 

Most of this chapter will describe how the political pressure to find targets for class struggle and the centrality of government control over scarce resources during this period increased the level of factional strife within the village. The essay will first outline a general chronology of the events of the period 1963-1981. I will then present two main stories of rivalry, the story of the Wus and Yangs, and the story of Wu Guangxing and Wu Guangjun, which I think are revealing of the effect of the political structures and events of the 1960s and 1970s on village social relations. Finally, the chapter will include a discussion of more current thinking about the idea of class struggle, and a discussion of the effect of the political arrangements of this period on the village economy. I hope to demonstrate the specific details of how the political activities of the 1960s and 1970s undermined villagers' well-being while at the same time it left the farmers with some positive experiences, raising their expectations for their position in society.

 

CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS

 

Beginning in 1962, in order to solve the problem of the continuing famine, there was a " xiahu ," which means that the business of production and consumption is brought "down to the family" (the same expression is used to describe the agricultural reform program begun in 1981, also know as the "responsibility system"). This first xiahu happened in 1962 in the Zhongli district and 1963 in Xiakou--a time when people were still hungry. At this time, the collective ( jiti ) still existed, but control was loosened so that people could plant as much grain as they could manage, and were allowed to harvest what they themselves planted on fallow land. At the same time, the collective distributed to each family private plots ( ziliudi ) which families still retain today, now simply referred to as the vegetable gardens ( caiyuan ). Furthermore, people were free to search for whatever wild foods they could find.

 

These reforms ended the period of famine. Yao Mingao remembers that in 1962 he acquired a piglet from Zhongli. In 1963 he and his cousins, with whom he cooperated, ate wild vegetables as they cleared fallow land on the mountain in order to plant corn. They were able to harvest several thousand jin of corn that year, a quantity that compares well to a family's average corn harvest today. By the new year festival of 1964 their pig was ready to eat--the first new year's pig in the village since the famine had begun--and he remembers happily how he parted out the meat to other villagers.

 

This respite from the wild tides of national political struggles was not to last long, however. When the production team was organized in 1964, political meetings resumed in a movement called the "Four Small Cleans." Villagers describe the Four Small Cleans as the time when the theme of class struggle was raised with a heretofore unexplored vigour. People persecuted as "class enemies" identify this movement as the turning point where pressure against them turned into a sustained way of life. A work team ( gongzuo dui ) arrived at the village to carry out the movement--they interviewed villagers in order to classify individuals' class backgrounds and to determine who would be the new village leaders.

 

The activities of work teams were a defining feature of the entire collective period. During the Great Leap Forward their political work was the "fiercest," but the work teams continued to come often to Xiakou during the 1960s and 1970s. One man estimated that they came twice a year throughout the 1960s. The work teams lived in the village or in the township and were responsible for determining the "real situation at the grassroots" and using this research to instigate political activism in line with new policies. The work teams were, in principle, outsiders without personal bias and so particularly fit to make judgements on village affairs. Their members were drawn largely from the ranks of county officials and college students. In retrospect, some local people have stated that their method was good and fair because they would talk to everyone, while others tell stories revealing how some work team members made unfair alliances within the village--for example, deciding to favor those villagers who would feed them well during their stay. Villagers also tell how the work team had to write everything down and that aspect of their method was wasteful busy work, impossible to complete. Likewise they were always studying government reports and essays and their obligation to know that material was very time consuming. The poor and lower-middle peasants had more meetings (often held in secret) with the work teams than individuals from the other classes. Villagers are fond of the irony that as a result of this fact the "bad elements" could sleep more or, alternatively, worked more and so collected more work points. Another important complaint villagers harbored against the work team method was that they would bring into relief the contradictions and conflict within the village, getting people angry at one another, and then leave without having brought any resolution to the conflicts. Things would simply return to the status quo ante except that people were more unhappy with one another than before. Perhaps the most common complaint about the collective period voiced by people in Xiakou today is that the work teams and political campaigns made life completely unstable: "This movement, that movement; meetings, meetings, meetings!" Political study meetings and struggle sessions were resented as unwanted, time-wasting interruptions.

 

The movements also created instability at the local level of village leadership. At the time of the 1963 xiahu , after Wu Wenchuan had been removed as brigade leader of Xiakou, Wu Guangliang was made the small team leader and Wu Guangxing was the accountant. Wu Guangliang, known as a clever, intelligent and able individual, had served before as an official in the early 1950s but had been removed at the time of the Re-examination (see essay on the 1950s). In the relaxed mood of the xiafu , he was able to rise once again to a position of leadership. With the onset of the Four Small Cleans in 1964, however, he and Wu Guangxing were removed from power because of their bad class backgrounds. Wu Guangliang was the son of a bad element--his father had been an official at the time of the GMD government and Wu Guangxing was determined to have a middle peasant background. They were replaced by Wu Wenchuan, now rehabilitated to fill the position of small team leader, and Old Yang who became the accountant.

 

 

Only a year later, in 1965, another movement shook Xiakou as the work teams once again descended on the village to carry out the "Four Big Cleans." The Four Big Cleans aimed to expose corruption and get people to air their complaints about local leaders. At this time it was determined that Yang had not done a good job as accountant, so his post was returned to Wu Guangxing. During the Four Big Cleans the village erupted in conflict as accusations of corruption and wrongdoing were coaxed forth. These two movements, the Four Small Cleans and the Four Big Cleans, loom large in many villagers' personal histories. For many people in the village the experience of these two movements seems to have been far more significant than the Cultural Revolution, which assumes a larger importance in the personal histories of the nearby townspeople.

 

THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION

 

The Cultural Revolution is probably the most widely-studied and least comprehensible chapter of China 's modern history. In general, for urban Chinese it was a traumatic watershed event with which they have yet to fully come to grips. For villagers in Xiakou, the Cultural Revolution pales in significance beside the starvation of the early 1960s. They tend to remember the Cultural Revolution as a seemingly endless and annoying series of movements and meetings, where personal gripes, animosities, and rivalries assumed political dimensions. I will not attempt a narrative reconstruction of the village history during the Cultural Revolution; rather, I will consider the way memories of the Cultural Revolution are told today as a window on villagers' social interactions and values.

 

In Xiakou, the Cultural Revolution began on the heels of the Four Big Cleans in 1966 and basically continued until the fall of the gang of four in 1976. Villagers commonly divide the Cultural Revolution into two parts--the wudou or armed struggle and the wendou or cultural struggle. The armed struggle lasted for only a brief period of six months in 1967-68. At that time, society cleaved into two moiety-like factions. Both sides claimed to be the only true revolutionaries, the only legitimate followers of Chairman Mao. Ya'an city, with its combination of heavy industry (workers), army, and university was racked by violence. The cultural struggle, on the other hand, was a more sustained undertaking which featured extensive political study and the ferreting out of `capitalist tendencies' in society which was done through the labelling and punishing of "rightists and class enemies."

 

Villagers say that Xiakou only had one or two persons who took part in the wudou --individuals who are seen to have a personal tendency toward violence. Wu Wenzhong took part and it is told that he almost killed a PLA man during the struggle. It was at the end of the wudou and the PLA was trying to stop the fighting. He took aim but his companion, Chen Qifu, (widely known as a particularly fierce and lawless character) knocked his gun off aim. Lucky for him he never killed anyone, they tell, because after the armed struggle was over people were punished severely for such actions. We were told by city and country people alike that a distinctive feature of the armed struggle was that only those individuals who themselves participated in the violence would be made targets of the violence--for other people the only risk was an occasional stray bullet. Once returning home from Ya'an city, Wu Wenzhong was stopped as he passed by a factory controlled by an opposing faction. They asked him which group he belonged to and he replied that "he was just a farmer and not involved." They searched him and found that the paper he had used to wrap some sugar had the name of his faction on it, and so they beat him.

 

The city of Ya'an was the scene of most of the stories told about the factionalism and armed struggle of the Cultural Revolution-- colorful stories of bank robberies, pistol packing motorcycle gangs, snipers, barricades, and home-made artillery-- and it apparently attracted a number of adventurous men from the countryside like Wu Wenzhong. But although some factions were nominally based in the countryside (e.g. the "Red Peasant Army"), Xiakou, like most other villages, remained relatively quiet. In fact, the countryside became a kind of safe haven for some city dwellers. While locals claim that only those who participated became targets, and average people were generally able to avoid the shooting and violence, they also say that the factionalism had its way of entangling even those who wished to stay out. If someone was accosted on the road and asked which faction he was in, claiming to be of no faction was considered an indication of intolerable political apathy. Everybody was pressured to become a member of a faction.

 

The stories of the wendou are long and complex and form much of the subject matter of what will follow in this chapter. Several people told me that they felt the cultural struggle had been a farce-- even funny at times. Everyday after work they would have meetings and discuss problems. Most meetings were study sessions not struggle sessions, but, they tell, "if you did something wrong you would be struggled--they would put you up on a stage with a sign hung around your neck."

 

By 1976 the politics and the economics of the production team system were playing themselves out. Village poverty had reached a low point and the people had become cynical about the political struggles. In the beginning of 1976 Deng Xiaoping was purged as part of a campaign against "capitalist roaders." This political campaign may have been the straw that broke the camel's back. While life in the production team was characteristically poor, the crackdown on private sideline enterprise was more than the people could absorb, and shortly after hunger returned to local villages. People were now desperate for change. Such cynicism and fatigue are well-evident in an anecdote told by one son of a bad element, Wu Guangren, who made the bitter observation that, "during Mao's time, everything was `capitalist roader.'" During that period he and Wu Guangliang made a net to fish to help supplement their poor diet. They fished at night. They could trade a fish for four jin of rice. They were not sleeping enough so during the day had trouble working well. They were suspected then caught when it was noticed how tired they were during the day. The officials took their net away and then used it themselves. People were hungry and political activism was a thin veil for individual competition. Late in 1976 Mao died and the Gang of Four was deposed, and new political and economic arrangements began to burst forth. The production team, however, remained the formal mode of production until the reforms of 1981.

 

In the economic poverty of the period and narrow range of opportunities for betterment, people competed fiercely for official positions (and privileges) and fought hard to avoid political criticism and its attendant punishments. There are many stories from this period of how villagers sought to "get" ( zheng ) one another. As a result, political narratives of the time are as complex and many-layered as the personal lives of the individuals from which they are constructed. They were so personal, in fact, that it was difficult for us to ask questions about village politics during the Cultural Revolution and we have likewise been reluctant to publish the stories that were shared with us. There is certainly no getting at any solid truth about events during this period; rather, by focusing on just a few stories, I hope to capture the general flavor of the conflicts without implying that what is presented is the whole story or the last word on what transpired. The narratives presented are based on highly biased accounts.

 

YANGS AND WUS

 

In the Old Society, the people of Xiakou were mostly all of two family names: Wu and Yang, and the Wus predominated. Both Wus and Yangs have a similar family history. Like most families in the area, they say they came to Sichuan from Hubei some twelve generations back, at the end of the Ming dynasty. They can still name villages in Hubei where they believe their families originated. Conflict between Yangs and Wus has a long history. Old Yang told a saying that was passed down from his elder generations to him, "it is better to eat three pounds of salt than to have anything to do with the Wus." That Wus and Yangs have had uneasy relations going back at least several generations is revealed in a story told by Wu Guangliang:

 

Wu Guangliang's grandfather, Wu Hongyuan, was not a clever man nor was he good at speaking, but nonetheless he had a good situation since he had land and rents coming in. He was introduced to a woman from Xiali named Luo whom he took in marriage. This woman's family was rich and well known; her ancestors were intellectuals and officials, and had skill in gongfu (martial arts). Their "blood was good" and they had people of note in every generation. Luo herself was clever and also very competitive. She had two sons but they were like their father and not smart.

 

At this time the Yang family of Xiakou lived on the other side of their vegetable garden. The Yangs had five sons who were always bullying Luo and her family, even stealing their vegetables. Although these sons were very fierce, Luo was not one to calmly accept their bullying. She swore at them ably, but the men of her family could neither swear nor fight, so the Yangs always got the better of them.

 

Luo placed all her hopes on her first grandchild, Wu Zhencai. When he was twelve she took him to her ancestral home in Xiali to learn martial arts. Because that family had money, Wu Zhencai was wholly devoted to his training and after two years the family declared him ready. On his return he sought out the youngest Yang brother, Yang Xingbang, and provoked him to fight. Yang Xingbang picked him up by his hair, but the youth used his elbow and a kick to knock Yang Xingbang down. From then on the other brothers did not bother Wu Zhencai or his family.

 

Two generations later, during the formation of mutual-aid teams, the Yangs worked with members from another team because they did not get along with the Wus. The production team, however, did not offer that flexibility, and so during production team times Yangs and Wus were made to eat from a common pot.

 

With the intensification of political campaigns and the arrival of a new work team to carry it out, the old Yang-Wu rivalry took a dramatic turn. When work teams were given the job of overseeing the assigning of class labels, the Yangs and Wus directly competed for their ear. Because of a quota system that required the work team to identify a certain number of bad elements, neutrality was not an option--Wus targeted Yangs to save themselves and vice versa.

 

It was the Big Four Cleans in 1965 and Old Yang was in his ninth year as accountant when the work team arrived in Xiakou. A man named Ying Guofu was sent from the Public Security Bureau and was deputy head of the work team. He was very powerful. He was sent to live with Old Yang and his Aunty, the daughter of Yang Xingbang, but they did not get along with Ying. Ying Guofu had good relations with Wu Guangxing and was often over at Wu Guangxing's house, according to Old Yang, eating sticky-rice dumplings and other delicacies.

 

The children of the bad elements in the village (all of Wu descent) sensed a new campaign in the wind and were eager to create some new objects for struggle in the effort for self-preservation. This clever bunch worked through Wu Guangxing to convince Ying Guofu to reclassify Old Yang's Aunty's class background on the argument that she had stood in line to inherit from her rich father. This was a way of setting up Old Yang by association. Old Yang got so angry he took all of Ying Guofu's belongings and threw them out of his house onto the ground.

 

Ying Guofu, in turn, encouraged the children of the bad elements (the Wus) to "collect evidence" which Yang says they happily invented. They came up with some thirty charges. Wu Guangxing said Old Yang's accounting figures were not clear, and they claimed he was a "capitalist" because he was building houses. Yang makes the point that everyone knew it was natural for him to be building because he had several sons coming of age to marry. Everyone, he said, knew he had bought the wood for the houses; but the clique demanded he show his cutting permit knowing he already would have handed it over to the people who had actually done the cutting. His son had been caught illegally cutting trees at night for sale to earn cash. His son was acting with several other Wu teenagers and they were accused of "chaotically cutting" ( luan kan , luan fa ), but the clique set up Old Yang as "black backbone" ( hei houtai ) of the operation.

 

While he was not beaten, his name and crimes were broadcast over the commune intercom. His job was taken away. He was criticized. Old Yang had good relations with Wu Guangjun, who was a village official, but Wu Guangjun had troubles of his own at this time. Zhu Guoming, another village leader who originally come from team one, was also an ally and check against the Wus' power, and Zhu Guoming did help him some, but it was an "Old Red Army Soldier" (lao hongjun ) who did the most to get the wheels turning back the other way. This man was directing the building of the canals near the village. Yang took an opportunity to tell him his own version of recent events. The Old Red Army Soldier, that symbol of upright virtue, told the commune that they should not just listen to one side of the story and they should have the business cleared up.

 

Ying Guofu, Yang revealed, was a chronic user of his powers for sex. Stories of men who used their official powers to encourage or extort sexual favors are a very common element in stories of production team times and Xiakou was no exception in this regard. As regards Ying Guofu, it was his undoing. In the 1970s a woman came and asked him to solve a problem in his capacity as a representative of the Public Security Bureau. He tried to extort sex from her, but instead she got him into trouble for his crime(s), and he was sentenced to ten years of corrective labor. When he came home in the 1980s his wife and children rejected him and he committed suicide.

 

In Yang's story, villagers appear adept at studying official policies in order to subvert the public discourse making it reflect more personal and private goals. They were encouraged in this behavior of attacking one another by the policy that created a quota system for political targets. It exacerbated old rivalries and created some new ones. Where conflicts once simmered, the political campaigns turned them into an open rolling boil. The outside official entering the village entered a complex web of social relations, and his ability to act in accordance with principles of what is just and fair over personal alliance and contracts of mutual privilege is considered what is correct. This was a difficult standard to uphold, however, and the events of the 1960s and 1970s demonstrate how the intense competition for scarce resources welded individuals into complex alliances of scheming within the rhetoric of the public political dialogue.

 

 

TWO FAMILIES OF WUS

 

While the story of the Yangs and Wus highlights the way in which the quota system intensified existing rivalries, an account of the conflict that exists between two families of Wus makes clear the sense in which the limited opportunities for advancement in the production team system similarly heightened friction. While becoming an official has long been an important route to social and economic success in China , during the production team Period, other avenues were cut off-- there were no independent business opportunities, no secret societies, and no temple associations. All resources were formally controlled by the state. Even those who sought to do a black-market business were well-advised to have personal contacts within the official structures to protect their safety. Thus individuals in the village who had any ambitions competed within a single narrow arena. As with the quota system, one person's loss was another's gain.

 

The main characters in this feud are Wu Guangjun, Wu Guangxing and his wife, An Yiyu. Wu Guangxing and Wu Guangjun are third cousins and next door neighbors. They were sixty-one and fifty nine in 1993 and had basically inhabited the same small village continually in their lifetimes. They have known each other since infancy. The two families were not on speaking terms during the period of our initial fieldwork. We lived with the family of Wu Guangxing and wife An Yiyu while Chen Naxin, our assistant, lived with Wu Guangjun and his wife Yang, continuing a long-time tradition of competition for official patronage between these two families that has kept tinder in the fire of their mutual hatred.

 

Wu Guangjun is an old soldier. He is physically strong, courageous and intelligent. He speaks well on a range of topics from life in the Old Society, to agricultural production, to village politics, but his favorite topic is his years spent in minority areas in the 1950s fighting for the PLA. He is a first-rate grandfather, caring kindly for his little girls, but he is also known in the village for his severe side. He has known unhappiness, dissatisfaction and he was "an activist" during the Cultural Revolution, turning his unhappiness outward.

 

Wu Guangxing is small and wiry and of keen intellect. It is rare to see him when he was not working, from sun up to sun down. He has come to terms with the abundance of gossip about him and lives his life according to his own inner principles. He helps in kitchen chores more than most men, he is a caring and concerned father to his many now grown-up daughters and his son, and he always has a pretty sophisticated assessment of village affairs, although it may take a little pulling to get it out of him. He has a deep respect for formal learning and takes pride in his knowledge of writing. Wu Guangxing likes to appear above the petty and vociferous quarrelling for which his wife is famous, but I have also seen him set her up to do their `dirty work.' An Yiyu is lazy by village standards because she does not labor in the crops, but she does fine by city standards. She keeps a very clean house which has won them a lot of points with higher officials, and plenty of resentment from others in the village, who point out that if they did not labor then they too could have a clean house. Villagers are sceptical about the validity of the health problems that she claims prevent her from laboring in the fields. An Yiyu spins a story to make her own set of points, and will speak badly of others, even those who are her friends, in order to defend her own interests-a common enough failing. But she can also be pleasant and charming because under it all, she wants to be liked. Personally, we truely liked all these people and enjoyed their company.

 

Both men were and are village leaders (as of 1993). In their prime, Wu Guangjun was the head of the village militia, including responsibility for crime control, and Wu Guangxing served twelve years as the team accountant, primarily between the years 1966 to 1981. Once we attended a wedding in the village, a family with which both these families have had their disagreements. Nonetheless Wu Guangxing was given the job of scribe, to receive and record the gifts of money, and Wu Guangjun was given the job of greeting people as they arrived-- and when a young trouble-maker arrived uninvited and began to brandish a knife, Wu Guangjun stood up to him and made him leave. Ten years after they have held any official posts in the village, their old roles were still less formally in effect.

 

During the production team, Wu Guangxing and Wu Guangjun each fought to gain the confidence of higher officials and so win power, and they did so at each other's expense. An account of their feud is an endless catalogue of accusation and counter-accusation of an intensely personal sort-- sexual habits, personal habits, reproductive histories all form constituent elements. Their rivalry took shape in the closed world of narrow opportunity of the production team period. In 1993 the two families still fought garrulously over continued petty accusations and counter-accusations, but the stakes did not seem as high. In 2005 relations between the families were softened considerably with Wu Guanjun now dead and Wu Guangxin's health in decline. While villagers still clash over questions related to access to official privilege, the principal reason for the improvement in relations, from our view, is that nowadays there are alternative paths to success besides official patronage. As a result, today's fights over the water hose or chance offence at some language encountered on village pathways are simply quarrels. During production team times, a personal fight might well have had repercussions that could undercut one or the other's basic livelihood.

 

Wu Guangjun used to run the village store out of his house, a nice privilege given the perpetual material shortages that plagued the Maoist period. This privilege was taken away from Wu Guangjun and given to An Yiyu, Wu Guangxing's wife because, according to An Yiyu, Wu Guangjun was corrupt, but also because An Yiyu had many children and was having health problems and it was a way for her to earn work points without going out to labor. Work points without laboring, however, was just the sort of privilege that aroused resentment throughout the village against Wu Guangxing and his family. Why, they asked, should she get an equal share of the grain they were all working to produce, when she did not labor in the fields with them? In the late 1970s, Wu Guangjun was involved with the work team that determined Wu Guangxing and An Yiyu should no longer be allowed to run the store due to resentments in the village.

 

When An Yiyu tells of Production team days she emphasizes how difficult things were with Wu Guangjun always struggling people, and she asserts that he gave her family an especially hard time. He made life difficult because of the weight of the accusations and their public nature. In her version of events, An Yiyu tells how "corrupt" Wu Guangjun was. For example, after a fire ravaged the village, the government oversaw a donation of second-hand clothes for the needy citizens. The clothes were given to Wu Guangjun to manage but, she claims, he took the best clothes out of the lot for his family even though his house had not been affected by the fire. After the fire, Wu Guangjun accused Wu Guangxing of having stolen wood from team four, but, An Yiyu said, the accusation was groundless and it was unfair and ridiculous that Wu Guangxing was put through the formalities of an investigation.

 

If Wu Guangjun believed Wu Guangxing was a wood thief, An Yiyu thinks Wu Guangjun was a wood thief. She tells a story of how Wu Guangxing once went to Ya'an for a fifteen day training course for village accountants. For the first two nights Wu Guangxing was gone, Wu Guangjun was over at their house until late at night because he was fighting with his father and did not want to go home. On the third night An Yiyu heard a strange noise in the night but ignored it. In the morning she discovered that she had wood missing. She reported the theft to the commune and called Wu Guangxing to come back early from his business in Ya'an. An accountant from the commune helped her and told her there would be an investigation, she should go home and wait. After she got home, however, she found out that it would be Wu Guangjun's brother who would investigate. No criminal was identified. An Yiyu said she came to know many years later that it was Wu Guangjun who stole the wood because she recognized the wood when Wu Guangjun used it to make his daughter's wedding furniture.

 

Wu Guangjun tried to `get' them on several occasions. When the traffic bureau built the road they cut down many trees. An official of the bureau gave Wu Guangxing and An Yiyu two logs as part of a relationship of exchanging favors, and the rest of the logs were stored in the village. One day two logs were missing from the central store of logs and the traffic bureau began to investigate. Wu Guangjun went straight to the bureau and said he knew where the missing logs were, they were in Wu Guangxing's loft. Wu Guangjun was head of the village militia and often worked at breaking cases of theft. The man at the Traffic Bureau was Wu Guangxing's friend, however, and asked Wu Guangjun how he knew. Wu Guangjun told him that when the family was out he climbed into their loft and saw them. The man from the Traffic Bureau conveyed this information to Wu Guangxing.

 

Of all the stories they tell of their rivalry, the story of the sugar and the grain seems to have been one of the most emotional. In structure it is very similar to what happened with the two logs of the traffic bureau. A common theme resonates: social relationships mix with official relationships, favors are traded, Wu Guangjun feels cheated and so makes an accusation, perhaps reading even more into events than is really there, and the two neighbors are further alienated.

 

In the 1970s there were stonemasons from another part of Sichuan living in Xiakou. They came from an area that grew sugar-cane. At that time Wu Guangxing was the village accountant in charge of reckoning work points into grain. One of the stonemasons approached An Yiyu before he went home for a holiday. He offered to bring her back some sugar when he returned. Wary that this might be an attempt to win favor with her husband, the accountant in charge of work points and income for the rock work, she made sure it was to be a cash transaction-- she went to the cash-box and pulled out five yuan and gave it to him. When he came back with the sugar she did not tell others about it, but one neighbor saw her cleaning a glass jar and asked what it was for and she told him about the sugar. Through this channel, she guesses Wu Guangjun found out she had ten jin of sugar. He was angry because another of the masons had offered to get him sugar but had failed to deliver. He figured Wu Guangxing had used his power to commandeer the gift that was originally intended for him. When the commune held a meeting and Wu Guangxing happened to be away, Wu Guangjun complained publicly and bitterly about Wu Guangxing. He cried as he told how Wu Guangxing wanted to "kill him with his pen"--deducting unfairly from his salary and his grain and using his power to get to his sugar. He told how he wanted the sugar for his pregnant wife and Wu Guangxing had taken it because his wife, too, was pregnant.

 

A simultaneous set of events that left Wu Guangjun unhappy was a deal worked out with Wu Guangxing over pay for rock work. Wu Guangjun worked at rock quarrying for one year. Wu Guangxing, the accountant, told Wu Guangjun that he could work out a good deal for him-- Wu Guangjun could have cash in lieu of work points for some or all of his time. As a result of this deal, Wu Guangxing made some heavy deductions from Wu Guangjun's work points and Wu Guangjun was short of grain that year and what grain he got was, in part, moldy.

 

Another accountant from the commune was sent to examine Wu Guangxing's books but found no problem. Wu Guangxing wanted to make things better between them, An Yiyu said, so he asked two officials from the commune to go to Wu Guangjun, sit down with him and explain how it was impossible for Wu Guangxing to cheat on the books because everything had to go through the cashier. Wu Guangxing also asked the mason who was supposed to bring Wu Guangjun his sugar to explain to Wu Guangjun why he had not done so-- apparently his connections were not as good as those of the man who was bringing Wu Guangxing sugar, and so he was reluctant to offend Wu Guangjun by bringing him sugar at a more expensive price than that which Wu Guangxing was getting.

 

Wu Guangjun for his part feels he has been good to Wu Guangxing and his family; he actually helped them during production team times. Wu Guangxing's family, because they had many young children and few laborers, had a grain deficit for which they had to borrow the balance from the credit cooperative. At that time the government wanted to help poor families overcome their difficulties, so they had a program of debt forgiveness. Wu Guangjun was on a committee of three who evaluated Wu Guangxing's situation, and he influenced the other two members to accept that Wu Guangxing's circumstance as difficult. As a result, Wu Guangxing only had to repay half his debt.

 

Wu Guangjun is irked by the ways in which Wu Guangxing has gotten advantage from his relationships: "His house is clean but his heart is not." Wu Guangjun shares with other villagers annoyance over a debt to the team which Wu Guangxing used his friendship with Wu Guangkui to avoid paying. One year Wu Guangxing's family owed the team 270 yuan for borrowed grain. Because Wu Guangkui was a bad element, his family always had to work very hard and rarely went to meetings. Because of this, and because they had several older children, they had an excess of work points. Since Wu Guangxing had many young children, and his wife did not work, they were short work points, work points being grain. Excess work points, in theory, were supposed to be rewarded with cash payments, but the production team was in debt. The team had loans from the credit union so excess points offered only a theoretical and seemingly distant promise of being redeemed in cash. Thus, Wu Guangkui said he was happy to give his work points to Wu Guangxing without expecting repayment. But others see it differently; Wu Guangxing was not liked by many villagers and some say this story shows just how Wu Guangxing's family made the villagers angry: he often got more grain for less work. Wu Guangkui told us that he feels others should not have this attitude. Wu Guangxing's family had hard times so they should have been helped. But one can also make the point that Wu Guangkui got something for his investment in good social relations. Wu Guangxing was powerful. He ran the store and had other benefits of being an official. Wu Guangkui was a bad element and a continual target of political struggle. An Yiyu always warned Wu Guangkui of upcoming campaigns and when to lay low. Thus their relationship can be seen as mutually beneficial.

 

From An Yiyu's viewpoint Wu Guangjun has been a thorn in her side, always seeking to get her and her family when they had never sought to do harm to him or others. Reflecting on the reasons for this persecution, Wu Guangxing once said that many people in the village harbored resentment against him because he had played a moderating role during the production team times and would not join in venomous schemes of self-promotion or `getting' others. Perhaps another reason is that Wu Guangxing played the game in a way that avoided risk, came out a winner, and people resented his success.

 

Wu Guangxing is, in his own way, extraordinarily successful and this is a source of great resentment in the village, particularly because much of his success is founded on his and his wife's ability to court higher officials. Villagers in Xiakou often draw attention to the fact that Wu Guangxing worked for several years in Yunjing saying of this experience that he and his family are "not really peasants but more like workers...they are more tricky in knowing how to get things from officials." This history goes back to the 1950s and continues to the present day. Wu Guangxing's family has received many advantages over the years from the backing of the township government and county officials, and people in the village resent it deeply, especially since An Yiyu is famous for her energetic willingness to fight with others over petty concerns. During production team times, their home was the center of social activity, but since reform people have stopped coming by. Wu Guangxing's power vis a vis others in the village declined when he ceased to be the production team accountant, and so people now have the luxury of avoiding them.

 

Significantly, many of the stories that An Yiyu tells about dealing with higher officials in the village revolve around the subject of food, and one can read into her stories the perspective of other villagers who resented the cozy relationship she and her husband were thus able to cultivate. The relationship between food and corruption in China is direct and long-standing, and Wu Guangxing's family was famous for their good cooking. An Yiyu's family is from the plains and during production team times she used to bring 500 jin of rice a year from her native home in the flatland , while others in the village had only corn cake to eat. This likely increased their apparent popularity in former times, as people sought to enjoy a special meal, although at the same time it probably also further fuelled village jealousies.

 

Once, when some officials were staying for dinner, An Yiyu went down to try to buy liquor from Wu Guangjun, who then ran the store. Wu Guangjun said he had no liquor to sell, but after they were all seated to eat, he, without invitation, joined them by offering a bottle of his own liquor stash. She did not appreciate his presence and even less so when he told others in the village how her family had given the officials extra fish which Wu Guangxing had caught that day. Another day, when An Yiyu ran the store, some commune officials stopped to buy some cigarettes. Wu Guangxing invited them to stay for dinner but they declined. They explained that rumors were circulating that An Yiyu was having sex with them in exchange for favors. An Yiyu says Wu Guangjun was the source of the rumors, trying to label her as one who trades sex for favors with the complicity of her husband. She, in turn, implied that Wu Guangjun tried to win favor with big talk, liquor and cigarettes.

 

The production team system inspired conflict not only over the need to avoid bad labels but also the desire to secure limited positions of power. While factional tensions within the village are a constant feature of village life, the production team system raised the stakes of what was to be gained or lost, and in so doing intensified the personal dramas. The production team reformed the village after the model of the urban work-unit with personal success defined almost exclusively in terms of attainment of the patronage within a set of higher officials. It was largely conflict and jealousy over access to such power and privileges that drove the conflict between Wu Guangjun and Wu Guangxing.

 

Many of the more bitter tensions that today still exist between families in the village are related back to what happened in production team times, a period of sharply bounded and intense factional struggle one observer has likened to "scorpions in a jar." Perhaps the most venomous form of ambition in the Maoist period was "class struggle;" certainly it is the stuff of some of the most bitter memories.

 

STRUGGLE SESSIONS

 

The question of who in the village was struggled during the political meetings of the 1960s and 1970s and who was not further focuses understanding of how the personal was mixed with the political, and of the sense in which class warfare was a label put to use for more immediate concerns. In the second team of Xiakou there were eight people labelled as "bad elements," individuals with bad class backgrounds who would be the obvious targets for political activism.

 

Wu Wenzhen was the only person in the village who had the unfortunate label of landlord. She had been married to a very wealthy man named Yao who had died young, then to Yang Yunzhong (of Pao Ge fame), and had sons from each of these marriages. Chen Naxin asked her once if her husbands had really been wealthy. She laughed at him. "If they had not been wealthy why would I have been given the label of landlord?" but she went on to say that despite their wealth she still had to do house work and, in all, it was only ten years or so she had been wealthy, while she had to pay for it many more years than that. In the end, she summed up with humor, having been a landlord "wasn't worth it."( hua bu cuo ).

 

After her second husband's execution, Wu Wenzhen was introduced to and married Old Wang, a worker at the electric power station that was built four kilometers from Xiakou during the early 1950s. From the time of their marriage until the time of the Four Small Cleans they lived in different parts of Sichuan as workers in the cause of national construction. During the Four Small Cleans they were dismissed back to Xiakou because of renewed attention to class background. Her past history made them both unsuitable. Many people pointed out that Wu Wenzhen was never given a particularly hard time during any of the struggle sessions of the Cultural Revolution period. She was always careful, did what she was told and did not offend people, they say, so people let her be. This can be contrasted to what happened to Wu Guangkui.

 

Wu Guangkui was given the label of "rich peasant" but he once told me he really never should have had this class designation. He remembers that when the Liberation Army (PLA) first came, "their method had some reason." Wu Guangkui was walking with a student friend when a PLA officer on the road looking for bandits stopped them and inspected their hands. Wu Guangkui had the callouses of a laborer but the student did not. Wu Guangkui was allowed to leave but the student was beaten. At land reform, again, he was still not assessed as a rich peasant. When class labels were re-assigned in 1964, however, there was a quota system and they were short of bad elements in the village. His parents and brother had been rich peasants but were now dead, his parents having died in the famine. To make the quota he was chosen as a "stand-in" for his relatives, something he understandably finds quite unjust.

Wu Guangkui is an extremely hard working man. At 71, he still carried big logs down the mountain on his back from Qian Jia mountain, and was always busy at some hard physical task or another. He is proud of his family, the fact that they all get along and that they are hard working, too. For us, he was somewhat hard to talk to, like several others who had difficult pasts; I think he was wary of the dangers talking to officials entailed. But when we did have the opportunity to talk, he was very interesting to listen to. He had a remarkable memory and good local knowledge, although he had never learned to read or write.

 

Wu Guangkui was always the number one target of struggle sessions. Many people say that his problem was that he had many children and so he often did "tricky" things to feed them adequately. He also is described by some people in the village as very cunning ( jiaohua ). "He had a lot of children and was always doing things to get more...everyone used to steal the collective's lumber but he did it the most and had many ways of getting it." One person told, "When we collected firewood, Wu Guangkui always came back with the biggest logs. Probably he killed live trees and left them there standing up to look like they were still alive. That way he would know where they were and other people would not touch them. He could then come back for them later." Although this person expressed sympathy for Wu Guangkui, and said that the struggle sessions had been too severe, she also felt that it was right to struggle someone who was too cunning and not honest.

 

People also said that Wu Guangkui was always struggled because he could not keep his mouth shut. Wu Wenzhen and Wu Guangliang's father knew how to do their work and keep quiet, but Wu Guangkui had a personality that was always going, seeing and saying, so he was always bound to cross someone and get into trouble. A loose tongue that offends people was listed as a key attribute of an individual who would be struggled. Once Wu Guangkui noted that the new canal being built on the opposite hillside ran slightly upgrade for a section and he guessed it would not work because of that. This was interpreted as a slur against the work of the government and the people, and he was struggled for the comment.

 

If some people imply that there was some justice in who was struggled, they also recognize that there was more than a small element of unjust frenzy caused by the pressure to be politically correct. One of the favorite stories of the Cultural Revolution told in Xiakou emphasizes the circumstantial and erroneous nature of the struggle sessions. Before a struggle session Wu Guangliang, a child of a bad element, was supposed to write a sign to be hung on the neck of Wu Guangkui. "They just needed him to write "rich peasant" but he wanted to be fancy so he added 'the highest directive' to the top of the sign." This was the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, and people in the countryside did not yet really know what was going on or what this "highest directive" referred to; only the higher leaders knew. Wu Guangliang had just heard someone say the phrase, so he added it, and the results were terrible. Everyone struggled against Wu Guangkui very fiercely because they thought this was an order from Mao himself.

 

Likely Wu Guangkui was also targeted merely because he bore the bad element label. Wu Guangkui's wife related that often the villagers tried to "get him," for example at grain distribution time. If someone needed a scapegoat, he was a credible candidate for the role. In the early 1960s the team plow was stolen. Wu Guangkui, whose job had been to carve plows from the wood of yehou trees, was suspected and struggled for this theft. During the Four Big Cleans, however, the work team investigated the theft of the team's plow and by comparing notes with another work team in Xiali, they discovered evidence that the plow theft was not done by whom the militia head, Wu Guangjun, had claimed, but that it had been done by the militia head himself acting in collaboration with an official from Xiali.

 

Wu Guangkui started to say that he was unhappy with Wu Guangjun, who had always been after him, even though in the Old Society his family had given Wu Guangjun's family rice when they hadn't enough to eat. "Every time I wanted to go out to see relatives or do anything during production team times, I had to get Wu Guangjun's permission..." His son urged him to leave off; not to press what was now in the past. From this son's comment, from the fact that people no longer congregate at Wu Guangxing and An Yiyu's house, from the fact that some teams now have trouble finding individuals willing to serve as team head, from the way people now joke about the old class labels, and from the usually more trivial subject matter of today's village disputes, one could conclude that what villagers describe as today's "scattered" (fen san) social life has decreased the level and the significance of quotidian animosities.

 

 

OTHER VIEWS ON CLASS STRUGGLE

 

With such a variety of individual involvements in the campaigns focused on class struggle, it is not surprising that a range of attitudes toward the political movements exist. For those who were not entangled by the campaigns it was "a good time" ( hao sua ). For others, the political activities incorporated an element of frontier justice that was to some degree meaningful. For many, however, the experience forms the basis for bitterness not easily shaken. In general, those who participated on the offensive side will remark on the excesses of the period; and those who were persecuted will remark on some of the good things Mao did for the farmers, but also emphasize the arbitrariness of the period's victims.

 

Wenxue, in speaking about the revolutionary period, pointed out that some landlords were not beaten during the movements because they had been good to people before liberation. Revenge was an important factor in what moved those movements, he concluded. He says that he stayed out of involvement in the movements; he went home and took naps instead. He did not want to offend people because he believes in gentle resolution of conflict, allowing people to save face. Wu Wenxue follows many people in China in blaming the conflict of the Cultural Revolution on the power struggles in the central government. He believes that, at the local level, people were just following along with what the system mandated. The conflicts may have proceeded from a reflection of local feelings but the excesses were a function of the leadership problems.

 

Although Wu Wenzhen was not seriously struggled during the political campaigns, her son, Yang Zhengguo, is nevertheless bitter about the opportunities he lost because of his family's bad class background. He was a good student but was not allowed to continue because of the political struggle and his family's history. Even worse, the emphasis on class background forced his parents to move from a factory back to the countryside, and he lost the chance to break out of the peasant caste and become a worker. Yang Zhengguo says he supported Mao at the time but now he "sees through" ( kantou le ) the class line and class struggle as unjust.

 

The son of a "bad element", born in 1959, explained why he thought the class labels had been unfair and inappropriate for this village:

 

By today's standards they were all poor. Our family in the Old Society had ten people. They all worked hard and did not waste. They did not smoke opium. At the new year they had but one pig to kill. They hired no labor. Their total consumption of vegetable oil for one year, including lamps, was only 100 jin . In hard years, they shared in the hunger. Before Xiakou was all one family. They all had land, mountain, dryland and paddy. They all had some rice. But some people had bad opium habits, and sold everything they had to feed their habits. Other people worked hard and kept straight. They would buy land. The Old Society was not so bad, or unjust; opium was the evil. In the end, [after Liberation] our family was punished for walking the straight road and the children of the opium smokers prospered , and had it best and easiest.

 

 

ECONOMICS

 

If there is a variety of comments assessing the meaning of the class struggles, there is near-universal agreement that the production team was not a good or efficient arrangement for agricultural production. People joke about how they would do just a little work and then all the men would take time out for a cigarette break. It took five days to get done what can be achieved in just three days today. In addition, a lot of time was given over to holding meetings, which is largely seen as having been a waste of time ( hun shijian ).

 

While the zero-sum dynamic in the political life of that era exacerbated village conflict, the "one-big-pot" economic policy made people unwilling to exert themselves in productive labor for the collective. People today still recall with disgust the politics associated determining the value of an individual's labor, and the feeling that hard work in those days had no reward. They often recall the long hours they had to put in, the lack of days off, and the poor arrangements for child-care when all the adults were out in the fields. In the same breath they will also recall the poor results that were obtained because nothing was done in a timely manner and because grain was grown in unsuitable locations. If you ask Xiakou farmers today if they like being farmers ( nongmin ), they often answer that they like the fact that they have "freedom" ( ziyou ). They work when they want to, and if they wake up one day and don't feel like doing labor, that is their choice. The production team took away this freedom and brought the neighbors into direct competition with one another, leaving a legacy of bad feeling. Wu Guangxing and I had a conversation one evening that made it very clear how the production team went against the grain of their notion of the way work should be arranged. Wu Guangxing and others had often commented on how poorly they ate during production team times. One pig at most a year per family, and oil and other basics were always in short ration. I asked him why people in production team times did not work hard at agriculture; could they not draw a connection between their working harder and all of them eating better since the team would share whatever they could produce? I asked why people had not looked at it like a family where some people can or will not work as hard as others, and yet individuals are still willing to do their best knowing that, at the end of the day, they will all benefit and all have more food on the table.

 

"That is just it," said Wu Guangxing. "take Wu Guangliang's two daughters-in-law. Wu Guangliang and the families of his two sons were all one family but one daughter-in-law worked very hard, fed pigs, did what she could to make their condition better. The other daughter-in-law likes to have fun and hang out ( sua ). They could not get along, they could not resolve this problem, so the family split up and that is the way it should be."

 

Not only were people feeling alienated from any benefit due their labors, the time allotted to politics further detracted from making ends meet. They joke about how often they held meetings. Wu Wenxue likes to quote the old Maoist adage, "three days without a meeting and thought will regress." Some points were distributed for attending some meetings, but the meetings bit into the schedule of more productive activities, and the work points to be earned by attending a meeting were less in any case. An Yiyu told how once Wu Guangxing had to secretly attend a meeting that lasted two months. Just after it was over they came to get him to go to another meeting. She told them, "was not two months enough to finish your business with him? We have seven kids to feed; we cannot afford to have him go to another meeting."

 

Politics hindered long-term production of wealth in yet another way. The same Ying Guofu who caused Old Yang so much trouble had a post at the commune where he was in charge of agricultural and financial development. He wanted to make Xiakou a model. He borrowed a lot of money to carry out agricultural projects and buy grain and cows. This was the era of "In agriculture, learn from Dazhai" and these were Dazhai-style work projects. At the time, these investments made the people of Xiakou happy, but later due to Ying's management, the poor results of the production team system, and the general poverty of this mountain region, the debt in Xiakou village was high at the time of the 1981 reform. The remainder of that debt was parted out to individual team members in 1981 in accordance with work points/grain deficits accrued during the production team period, and for some these same debts still present a burden today.

 

On the other hand, some people point out that some of these experimental projects did have real long-term benefits. It was under the collective that Xiakou residents learned to cultivate rice, and some of the infrastructure developed at that time, such as irrigation, is felt to have been extremely helpful to farmers' well-being. Thus, during production team times there were aspects of life that were better than today, and these memories are a measure against which today's society and its problems are judged and found to be lacking. Wu Guangxing and Wu Wenxue reminisced one night how in the heyday of Maoism the peasants were number one and there were many policies to benefit them. They could borrow money with almost no interest. They could go to the hospital and if they did not have the cash on hand they would still be helped by the doctors. Such things raised their morale. Also there were the public works: the irrigation canal was built in the 1960s and 1970s, the public road was completed in 1968 and electricity reached Xiakou in 1969. Mao's leadership also put great emphasis on controlling official corruption. The cash kickbacks and escalated gift-giving so common among officials today would not have been tolerated back then. These good works are associated with the name of the communist party and farmers sometimes cynically note that "the people in power today are not the real communist party."

 

CONCLUSION

 

While villagers will combine production team times with the time of the communes (great leap forward to famine) under the common label "the collective" ( jiti ), they just as commonly separate them. The whole of the collective period featured an economic system that worked to undermine family production and give power to local officials, but the commune period was characterized as a time of bizarre extremes, relative to which the production team appears as a more sustained social experiment. This chapter has attempted to demonstrate that the themes of class struggle and a chronically weak economy were defining features of a period referred to by local farmers as "production team times" ( shengchandui de shihou ). The course of political activism associated with class struggle is viewed variously by different players, but most people express the opinion that the campaigns were carried to unfair extremes. Social conflict within the village is a salient theme of narratives of the period and the conflict seems to have been exacerbated by the zero-sum political economy of those times. The economic and political structures intensified competition for limited local resources. Furthermore, by making villagers eat from "one-big-pot," people were not motivated to work hard.

 

As a result, few people in the countryside disagree with the proposition that the economic arrangements of the Dengist period are superior to those under Mao, in so far as it is ability-- not class background-- that counts. Nevertheless, Chairman Mao still symbolizes a spirit and a set of policies that had certain tangible advantages for farmers relative to today. Mao's politics put farmers at the center of a national effort for social and economic development. Zhu Congde once said, "The armed struggle and the starvation caused many people to die. This could not, therefore, have been Chairman Mao's work." For many believers, there is a desire to keep Mao's image untarnished by the worst extremes of the political system of his day. Mao has become an icon symbolizing policies that put the common farmer first--attention to infrastructure, cheap healthcare and education, and checks on corruption. These items constitute a vital and relevant critique of the social problems of today.

See Oi (1989, p. 5) for changed rural administrative units.

See (Bernstein 1977)

Baum (1975) is the best historical overview of this period.

See Chan, Madsen, Unger (1984, p. 45-61).

Our favorite account of the Cultural Revolution in a village is still Chan, Madsen, Unger (1984). [see also (Madsen 1984)]. For studies of urban "red guards" see Chan (1985) and Rosen (1981). For the broader outline of events, see Lee (1978); White (1989) focuses on policy as the catalyst for factional violence during the Cultural Revolution.

Kelliher (1992) details the way in which the reform movement of the early 1980s largely just formalized changes led by the spontaneous actions of farmers at the grassroots.

This is at the heart of Siu's (1989) thesis, where she argues that this dynamic was at the heart of the central government's ability to infiltrate and control the grassroots.

Most wives in Xiakou come from higher up in the mountains where it is unlikely that families would be able to provide extra rice to a married daughter or a sister.

Oi (1989, p. 9-10)) emphasizes the importance of clientalism in village politics; Walder (1986) explores the theme in urban work units.

His class assignment had been " jie ban fu nong " or substitute rich peasant. In Maoist society when an elder man or woman died in a work unit, their child was given a position in the same unit, a benefit referred to as "jie ban."

Contraband lumber could be traded to work units in Ya'an for extra rice.

See Potter and Potter (1990, p. 296-302) and Cohen (1993)for observations on the 'peasant caste system.'

Indeed, the main political activists in the village during the Cultural Revolution period were the offspring of men knows to be heavy opium smokers-- they had the good "poor peasant" backgrounds.

First chosen as a model commune in 1964 by Mao himself, Dazhai (in Shanxi province) was the epitome of Maoist agricultural tenets, combining intensive political campaigns, emphasis on revolutionary attitude and "self reliance", a high degree of mechanization and green revolution technologies, and large-scale land terracing projects to make use of the new technologies. The "learn from Dazhai" movement gained momentum in 1975, when it was pushed by Maoist radicals to oppose 'capitalist tendencies' favored by pragmatic reforms. See Chan, Madsen, Unger (1984, p. 90-93, 239-240), and works focusing on Dazhai,(Zweig 1989) and (Meisner 1978).

Croll (1993) argues that shifting alliances between officials and individual villagers destablilized village social relations in this period. Verdery (1996) thesis that socialism was in essence a system that followed from state-induced scarcity is also relevant.

When Pam first published her thesis on the web, she left this chapter out. By 2005, with nearly fifteen years of intervening reform, interpersonal relationships in the village have softened considerably and these old inter-personal fights and feuds, from our observations, seem less relevant and so less likely to upset people living in Xiakou today. It is with this understanding, we now publish this chapter.

When Pam first published her thesis on the web, she left this chapter out. By 2005, with nearly fifteen years of intervening reform, interpersonal relationships in the village have softened considerably and these old inter-personal fights and feuds, from our observations, seem less relevant and so less likely to upset people living in Xiakou today. It is with this understanding, we now publish this chapter.

Croll (1993) argues that shifting alliances between officials and individual villagers destablilized village social relations in this period. Verdery (1996) thesis that socialism was in essence a system that followed from state-induced scarcity is also relevant.

 

 

About This Essay


The Collective Period in Ya'an

This essay is based on recollections of life in Xiakou village during the 1960s and 1970s, a period local people called the jiti or "collective" times. Villagers' memories of the Socialist Education Movement and the Cultural Revolution emphasize the ways in which these events were only dimly understood in the village, in an environment that made personal conflicts escalate into political struggles. An earlier version of this essay appeared as a chapter in Pam Leonard's 1994 Ph.D. thesis "The Political Landscape of a Sichuan Village ."