I was a member of the “Four Cleanups” task force

Recently, I found a few group photos of our “Four Cleanups” work team outside the village in 1964, which aroused my memories of this period of history.

In the fall of 1963, the university decided that I and more than 20 teachers would go to work in the rural areas of Yechen County. At that Time, I had been teaching at Shandong Institute of Technology for nearly eight years, and I was used to short-term labor and reformation after experiencing the “anti-rightist”, “Great Leap Forward” and the three-year difficult period. When we were working in the countryside, the “Four Clean-ups” campaign was launched in the country, and the leaders decided to send more than 20 of us to Haiyang County to become members of the Four Clean-ups Task Force and work in the countryside for another year, and then reform for another year.

My team was stationed in the village of Tai Tai, Haiyang County, which had more than 200 families and a population of more than 1,000. The team consisted of about forty members (later increased to nearly fifty), the team leader was the head of the Provincial Culture Bureau and the Provincial Federation of Literary and Art Circles, several old directors served as deputy team leaders, and the team members were mainly from the Propaganda Department of the Provincial Party Committee, the Provincial Culture Bureau, the Provincial Federation of Literary and Art Circles, the Provincial Drama Troupe, the Provincial Library, the Shandong Medical College, the Shandong Engineering College, and some cadres from the Tai’an area. I was listed as an official team member. A few of the twenty-odd people from my school could not be listed as official members because of their bad background, but only worked with the team.

After entering the village, the team members had to live in the homes of the most difficult members of the community, in order to implement the policy of “visiting the poor and asking questions, rooting and linking” and “three with” (that is, eating, living and working with the community members). The Family I lived in had only two members (the nearly 60-year-old grandfather and his teenage son). The first job after entering the village was to announce that all power would be given to the task force, from the village branch secretary and village head to the squad accountant and custodian; at the same time, all poor peasants were called upon to bravely expose and report to the task force the four unclear problems in the village, especially among the cadres. Not long after, the squad leaders called some of the team members to announce that according to the reports of the poor peasants, the four unclear problems in the village were quite serious, one of which was that the custodian of the brigade had over-eating and over-occupying and embezzlement. And immediately set up a long table to examine the case, set up a horse lamp, the militia stand guard outside the house, the task force leaders to conduct night trials.

The custodian did not admit to embezzlement and other problems, angered the leaders, so the voice was stern, beat the table and bench, and even the horse lamp shock down to the ground. So long interrogation, but nothing, the custodian hanged himself the next day. The team leader announced to the players: a certain person committed suicide.

Then, the squad leader called some of our team members, announced that so-and-so had serious historical problems, decided to act tonight. The squad leader interrogated him, the militia was responsible for security, and the rest of the team went to his Home to search to see if there were guns, ammunition and other prohibited items. This person’s house is not large, simple furnishings, coupled with the workforce, it did not take long to turn the house inside and out. Some people suggested: to see if there are kilns, caves, dark walls and other secret hiding places, so then carefully searched around, but still found nothing. The interrogation results were the same. The team leader announced that he would be locked up in solitary confinement and guarded by the militia. As time went on, this became a problem and it was decided that he would be sent to the county for detention.

At that time, the county’s regular jails and detention centers were already overcrowded, so he had to be put in a newly added temporary detention center. During this time, news of a village cadre committing suicide was constantly circulating, and the words that members of the community would ask when they met at the fair were, “How many have died in your village?” People were in a state of panic. The documents sent from the higher level proved that the rumors were basically true, and they demanded that the radical actions be stopped immediately and the imprisoned cadres and members be released as soon as possible, but some task force leaders were still very unconcerned and delayed again and again.

Most of the team members, and the community members live and work together every day, the days are long, we, who have lived in the city for a long time, began to have some understanding of the countryside.

Most of the members ate groundnuts and a small amount of corn cakes for years and years, and the side dish was a single salted carrot stick, with no oil at all; they could only eat some beans, wheat and small fish and shrimps during the farming season and the New Year festival. There is no coal in Haiyang, and fuel is very scarce. Every morning, the children carried baskets and rakes on their backs to cradle leaves and other combustible materials, and I also went with the landlord’s children. Unfortunately, there were not many trees around the village, so it was just a drop in the bucket. When I finished eating fresh groundnuts, I ate dried groundnuts, and when the water in the pot boiled, there was a ceasefire, and I had bad teeth for many years, so the steamed dried groundnuts were hard to chew.

The only chance for the team members to improve their Food was to go to the county for a conference. In the county, we ate lunch with white steamed buns and greasy vegetables, but this opportunity was too rare. Later, the team leader transferred the chef of the original unit to open a separate meal for the team members, although it was a home-cooked meal, the team members ate with joy and taste. The team insisted on the “three with” also followed the change of taste. The members of the community are dressed in simple and shabby clothes, going to the ground and at home are all in one, and it is common for the members to catch lice at night when the community meeting is held below. I saw children and girls dressed better than usual, but most of the community members were still wearing the same old clothes.

There are very few large fields in Taishang village, many small hills, lack of water and fertilizer, primitive farming techniques, and depend on the sky for food. During the year, we seldom saw personnel from seeds, fertilizers, agricultural tools, water conservancy and farmland infrastructure come to the village to serve the production and the members. The income distribution of my team was done by the team accountant and I. What impressed me more was: First, the production was low, there was very little side income, and the population was large, so the average income of the community members was very low. The strong laborers earned only one cent a day; secondly, the distribution scheme of “seven laborers and three laborers” was adopted, that is, 70% of the total net income of the squad was divided equally among the whole population, and the remaining 30% was distributed only according to the quantity and quality of labor, that is, the work points.

There were many semi-literate and illiterate members in the community, especially women. There was an elementary school in the village, and I don’t remember if there was a health center, but I never saw a doctor or nurse in the village. During the Spring Festival, there were few cultural and entertainment activities such as singing and movie shows in the village, and young people had to travel a long way to listen to the theater and watch movies. The team also organized a cultural performance to celebrate with the community members, but it was better than nothing. On New Year’s Eve, when we patrolled the village, we saw incense burners and candles, tablets and offerings in front of every house, and the ashes of burning money and paper were still visible. The community members took advantage of the absence of the Spring Festival team to quietly pray to heaven and to their ancestors for peace and prosperity in their lives.

When the deadline came, the task force ended successfully, and the members returned to their respective units, but the “Four Cleanups” campaign did not end, and after returning to school, the leaders gave me the task of participating in the next “Four Cleanups” campaign in the rural areas of Zhucheng for another year and another year of transformation.