Recently, I read a passage in Mr. Jin Chonghe’s talk about the road to China’s revival in the past hundred years that brought back my memories of the “Great Leap Forward. Jin said, “In 1958, when I was the deputy director of the Department of Teaching and Science at Fudan University, I was in contact with senior intellectuals, and when the ‘Great Leap Forward’ was proposed, everyone supported it. At that time, we went to the suburbs of Shanghai to see it, and we were particularly excited at that time. I had never seen such a vigor in the production of labor to build the motherland, with steel furnaces everywhere and half the sky dyed red. (Southern Weekend, October 1, 2009, page 27) I was an active participant in the Great Leap Forward, but I was not as excited as Mr. Jin, much less “particularly excited”; and the result of the Great Leap Forward was nothing short of a miracle. I was an active participant in the Great Leap Forward, but I was not as excited as Mr. Jin, much less “particularly excited”; and the result of the Great Leap Forward was that no miracle could be created, except extreme hunger and regression.
After the Great Leap Forward began, in June 1958, we, teachers and students of the liberal arts at Yunnan University, went to work at the Tsiba site in Kunming. Before we left, the school made a mobilization, and we all made a statement at the meeting that we must take the posture of “Great Leap Forward”, work hard, strive for upstream, build socialism more quickly and save money, and seriously reform our worldview during the labor.
Why did they all say the same thing with the same attitude? The reason is that the “Great Leap Forward” movement was launched right after the stormy anti-rightist movement and the heart-to-heart movement, and not only those who were classified as “rightists” among teachers and students were not allowed to speak and move indiscriminately, but also those who belonged to the category of “people”. Not only could those who were classified as “rightists” among the teachers and students not speak or move, but also those who belonged to the category of “people” were cautious in their words, fearing that trouble would come out of their mouths. Teachers and students classified as rightists were, according to Chairman Mao, the “negative teachers” of the people. It is said that the reason why these negative teachers were classified and rectified was because they were “anti-Party and anti-socialist”. We should learn from them and firmly support the Party’s leadership. According to our understanding at that time, the documents and words conveyed by the leading Party members and cadres, as well as the editorials in the People’s Daily, reflected the Party’s ideas and leadership. So, how they speak, how we understand, how to speak, how to do. I think this is the background of what Jin Chong and said, “When the ‘Great Leap Forward’ was proposed, everyone supported it. We were at the construction site, with strong laborers pulling carts to transport the soil and others digging and shoveling. The teachers were alone in one place, doing some light work. Seriously, everyone worked very hard, and almost no one was cheating or hiding.
In the midst of the heavy manual labor, they still had to live the organizational life of the party and the group and hold “life meetings”. At the meeting, everyone had to talk about the gains and experiences, check their own misconceptions, and propose measures for improvement. At one meeting, Professor Yang Koon, an ethnologist who had returned from France, said, “I have gained a lot! I used to be accustomed to the bourgeois lifestyle, working for two hours in the morning and then taking a nap at 10 o’clock. I had to take care of this habit in the department, and I couldn’t work early and late like the workers and peasants. Now that I participated in the ‘Great Leap Forward’, I overcame the habit of wanting to sleep in the morning during the labor, and I overcame some bourgeois lifestyles ideologically and politically.” I thought Mr. Yang Koon was very clever, both in not checking out any substantive errors and in seeming to put himself on the line. I really couldn’t tell which of the statements made at that time were clichés and which were true.
“One of the important elements of the Great Leap Forward was the Great War on Steel. Chairman Mao clapped his hands and said that in 1958, the national steel production should be doubled compared to 1957, achieving an annual output of 10.7 million tons of steel. In 1958, I graduated and was assigned to Gengma County, Lincang Prefecture, Yunnan Province, where I was assigned to work as a clerk in the Sipai Mountains; before I arrived, I was ordered to participate in the Great War of Steel and Copper in Dongpo Township, Sipai Mountains. At that time, it was the climax of the “Great Leap Forward”. Gengma, a small frontier county with a large number of ethnic minorities and a population of only 70,000 at that time, also had to respond positively. When I first joined the workforce, I was bent on completing my tasks, making a good start and earning a good performance in the “Great Leap Forward” in the first place.
This area of Dongpo has a copper “chicken nest mine”, the amount of ore is not large, very high grade. Gengma County steel copper command is located here. The secretary of the command, the first secretary of the county party committee Wang Daochuan as the commander-in-chief, deputy political commissar of the county armed forces Li Changsong as deputy commander-in-chief. I went to Dongpo, the war had already started, the ore dug out from various “chicken nest mine” points had been stacked on the smelting field, hundreds of Wa farmers were taking turns to pull the bellows hard to a dozen cast plowshare iron furnace blast, whistling bursts, furnace fire flashing, really a steaming scene. Secretary Wang said, “We do not have any iron ore, according to the regulations, the delivery of a ton of copper on top of 40 tons of good steel!”
I am in command to deal with statistics, paperwork, for the work assigned by the leadership, as long as I have time, I took the initiative to pull the bellows blowing small iron furnace, add oak charcoal refining copper. Within two days, copper refining oak charcoal is not available, responsible for the smelting field of people to the command to oak charcoal. Four Pai Shan farmers in each township has long been drawn out, can no longer transfer people to burn charcoal. No fuel how can? Secretary Wang told me to tell the county party committee office, immediately from the Lahu and Geng Xuan Dam Dai farmers in the Fulong Mountains, 800 people to come here to cut trees to burn charcoal. A few days later, more than 600 men and women came, carrying cotton blankets, clothes, pots and axes, and walked over the mountains for two days, building rows and rows of shacks in the forest in the opposite mountain, digging pits at the foot of the mountain to make kilns, and starting to cut down trees and burn charcoal one after another. After many days, they cut very few trees, and did not burn much charcoal. Deputy Political Commissar Li asked me to take a look, so I hurriedly went over the mountains to see. It turned out that they left work very late and finished very early, and the head man, He Bangya, had to lead them to do Buddhist rituals.
What happened? Didn’t they say that there is great socialist motivation among the peasants? I immediately thought of what I had been taught: the failure to work here and the lack of peasant activism meant that the class struggle was not taking place and that the way must be opened with a great criticism! At that time, it was fashionable to hold “debates”, which were a good way to implement forced orders. I got some township cadres to meet and set up an evening “debate” on He Bangya. What was the “debate” about? We agreed that since he had been the head man, he must have oppressed the masses. So, let’s start with his history of oppressing the people and criticize him for doing Buddha’s work on the construction site, dragging the feet of cutting down trees and burning charcoal, and sabotaging the “Great Leap Forward”. In the evening, hundreds of people sat around on the mud floor, I made a short speech on the topic, followed by a few township cadres loudly accusing He Bangya. In order to set the mood and mobilize the emotions, some of them kept leading slogans, and a few others caught He Bangya standing in the middle of the meeting, pointing their noses and scolding him.
The next day, the progress of cutting down the trees was indeed greatly accelerated. I returned to the headquarters to resume orders. A few days later, the smelter still said there was not enough fuel. How could there be a shortage after burning so much charcoal? They showed me: all the charcoal that came in was rafter charcoal which had little fire power and was not resistant to burning, not oak charcoal. I immediately ran to the mountain over there. It turned out that instead of making a kiln, the new farmers of Fuyong and Geng Xuan dug square pits and burned open fires, which of course saved time, labor and effort, but only rafter charcoal! They shook their heads and said, “We don’t know how to make a kiln, we can only burn this kind of charcoal! I could do nothing.
Back to the command, then the district supply and marketing agency and the health center came to me: “Secretary Zou, you have to leave some big trees ah. Now is the oak, pine trees together, big trees and small trees together, later we build houses in the vicinity will not be able to find wood.” I told the cadres of each township in the Fulong district to pay attention to leave some big trees, the other grasping cut; the foot of the mountain to do kiln, must burn oak charcoal. But a month, the two hills dense forest was pushed a bald, in the autumn wind to reveal a patch of yellow-green weeds.
At the end of December, the top informed us to suspend the Great War steel copper, so that the farmers in the countryside to hurry home to engage in the autumn harvest. Upon hearing this, the farmers immediately became excited and went away immediately. Our command staff stored the iron furnace on site, abandoned the charcoal-burning kiln as well as cut down the wood that had not been used, and withdrew to their respective units. Back in the county, Secretary Wang said with a happy face, “The whole county got 1.9 tons of copper, big and small pieces of real copper that are knocking loudly, the first in the whole area.” Later, when I went to Lincang, I learned that our county was more honest and was really refining copper. What came out of the big war in other places was black paste “ice copper” that I didn’t know what I could do with.
In the autumn of 1959, I went back to my hometown to visit my relatives, and visited my cousin who was a workshop technician at the fourth heavy steel plant in Jiangbei Xiangguosi, Chongqing. There were many steel ingots stacked in the factory. I asked, “Do you use these ingots to roll steel? He said, “No, these are all sent from all over the world after the good news, high sulfur and high phosphorus, how to roll? I said, I saw those good iron door, iron pot smashed out of the refining of “steel”, not as good as these ingots. My cousin said, “Now we’re fighting against rightist tendencies, so don’t talk nonsense, and be careful not to get yourself into trouble. When I left this steel plant, I thought of the great steel copper war I participated in and the farmers of all ethnic groups who were eager to go home to harvest their crops, so I really couldn’t get excited.
More than twenty years have passed. 1985 I traveled to Gengma County, but also to the following townships to go around. The cadres of the county party committee organs and townships hardly knew me, but they knew that I had worked here and could speak a few words of Wa, and were particularly cordial to me. The leaders of the county party committee asked me, “Over the years, what changes do you see most prominent. I said, “There are more roads, more electric lights, more buildings, but there are less forests. I am also responsible for the lack of forests. “During the Great Leap Forward, I foolishly made a mistake here and cut down all the forests on the two hills of the Eastern Slope, I am really sorry. They laughed and said, “Isn’t that paying tuition? I don’t know if I will pay it again!”