Wild Lily, Prairie Fire

Wild Lily, Prairie Fire

Alan Hunter

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 0691043582

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Gregor Benton and Alan Hunter provide here a source book of documents of democratic dissent under Chinese Communism, most of them previously untranslated and difficult to find in the West. Ranging from eye-witness accounts of a massacre to theoretical critiques of Chinese Marxist thought, these essays are among the most powerful and important works of Chinese dissident literature written in this century. An extensive introduction maintains that the documents reveal a tradition of democratic thought and practice that traces its descent to the New Culture Movement of the 1910s and the founding generation of the Chinese Communist Party. Far from being a late twentieth-century import (along with capitalist economics) from Europe, Japan, and the United States, this tradition of dissent is deeply embedded in the experience of China's revolutionary movements.

The story of Chinese Communism has often been reduced to uniformity not only by political bureaucrats in China but by Western scholarship derived from official Chinese histories. Wild Lily, Prairie Fire paints a far richer picture. The book calls into question many of the usual beliefs about the relation between democracy and communism, at least in the Chinese case, which may now be seen to depart from the Soviet model in yet another crucial respect.

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heartfelt, sometimes naive, denunciations of privilege, corruption, and abuse of power. So the Cultural Revolution also brought to light genuine popular grievances. Finally, a few groups and individuals moved beyond personal complaints and factional intrigue, and attempted to produce serious political analyses of the condition of China twenty years after the revolution. Couched in language that now sounds ridiculous, still burdened by the worship of Mao Zedong, they are nevertheless

confined to Beijing. In Chongqing, and probably elsewhere too, the students tried to keep the workers at arm’s length (though they complained when they felt that the workers were not giving them enough support).82 Only a handful of intellectuals (including the indomitable Ren Wanding) saw the importance of an independent workers’ movement, and only a few dissenting students tried to help the new workers’ body in Beijing. Most workers too were frightened by the autonomous unions, which looked

only by IOUs of doubtful legitimacy. The Communist Party’s reputation used to be extremely high in much of the countryside, partly for historical reasons and partly owing to the success of the 1980s reforms. That reputation is now tarnished, and may be irrevocably lost. Here it is worth asking whether socialism and a free peasantry are not congenitally incompatible in China. Would not the peasants by their very numbers overwhelm the urban bases of the collective economy and cause China to “change

modern political organization, which quite a few have had experience in leading. For a while Mao’s “rustication” campaign brought large numbers of urban youth into the villages, and now tens of millions of peasants sojourn where possible in the cities (while some hundred million others have gone to work in rural industries). Vastly more peasants (roughly half of them, mainly men) than in the old China can now read and write to a reasonable standard, and the spread of mass media is quickening

Movement in the People’s Republic of China and Overseas,” in Joseph Cheng Yu-shek and Maurice Brosseau, eds., China Review, 1993 (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1993), chap. 21. A careful survey of political prisoners is Asia Watch, Detained in China and Tibet: A Directory of Political and Religious Prisoners (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1994). 98. John Gittings, The Guardian (London), June 4, 1994, p. 15. 99. See for a discussion of this issue Bill Brugger and David Kelly, Chinese

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