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Vol. 17, No. 3: July–September 1985
Maurice J. Meisner - The Chinese Rediscovery of Karl Marx: Some
Reflections on Post-Maoist Chinese Marxism
• Tamae K. Prindle - Shimizu Ikko’s Silver Sanctuary (Gin no seiiki):
A Japanese Business Novel / A Translation
• Tinna K. Wu - A Translation of Hou De-jian’s Poem Heirs of the
• Suniti Kumar Ghosh - On the Transfer of Power in India
• Jon Halliday - Women in North Korea: An Interview With the
Korean Democratic Women’s Union
• Corrina-Barbara Francis - Interview with Kang Ning-hsiang
• Bruce Cruikshank - Villains, Victims, and Villeins: Studies of the
Philippine Economy / A Review Essay
• Eddie J. Girdner - Storm over the Sutlej: The Akali Politics by A.S.
Narang / A Review
BCAS/Critical Asian Studies
CCAS Statement of Purpose
Critical Asian Studies continues to be inspired by the statement of purpose
formulated in 1969 by its parent organization, the Committee of Concerned
Asian Scholars (CCAS). CCAS ceased to exist as an organization in 1979,
but the BCAS board decided in 1993 that the CCAS Statement of Purpose
should be published in our journal at least once a year.
We first came together in opposition to the brutal aggression of
the United States in Vietnam and to the complicity or silence of
our profession with regard to that policy. Those in the field of
Asian studies bear responsibility for the consequences of their
research and the political posture of their profession. We are
concerned about the present unwillingness of specialists to speak
out against the implications of an Asian policy committed to ensuring American domination of much of Asia. We reject the legitimacy of this aim, and attempt to change this policy. We
recognize that the present structure of the profession has often
perverted scholarship and alienated many people in the field.
The Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars seeks to develop a
humane and knowledgeable understanding of Asian societies
and their efforts to maintain cultural integrity and to confront
such problems as poverty, oppression, and imperialism. We realize that to be students of other peoples, we must first understand
our relations to them.
CCAS wishes to create alternatives to the prevailing trends in
scholarship on Asia, which too often spring from a parochial
cultural perspective and serve selfish interests and expansionism. Our organization is designed to function as a catalyst, a
communications network for both Asian and Western scholars, a
provider of central resources for local chapters, and a community for the development of anti-imperialist research.
Passed, 28–30 March 1969
Boston, Massachusetts
Vol. 17, No.3/July·Sept., 1985 Contents MauriceJ. Meisner
Tamae K. Prindle
Shimizu Ikko's Silver Sanctuary (Gin no seiiki):
A Japanese Business NovellA Translation
TinnaK. Wu
A Translation ofHou De Jian 's Poem
"Heirs of the Dragon"
Sunili Kumar Ghosh
On the Transfer of Power in India
Interview with Kang Ning-hsiang
Bruce Cruikshank
Villains, Victims, and Villeins: Studies of
the Philippine Economy/review essay
Eddie 1. Girdner
Storm Over the Sutlej: The Akali Politics,
by A. S. Narang/review
List of Books to Review
Jon Halliday
The Chinese Rediscovery of Karl Marx:
Some Reflections on Post-Maoist
Chinese Marxism
Women in North Korea: An Interview with the
Korean Democratic Women's Union
Contributors Bruce Cruikshank: Unaffiliated Historian, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Corinna-Barbara Francis: East Asian Institute, Columbia
University, New York, New York
Suniti Kumar Ghosh: Calcutta, India
Jon Halliday: Writer on Japan and Korea, London, England
Maurice J. Meisner: Department of History, University of
Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
Tamae K. Prindle: Department of Modem Foreign Languages,
Colby College, Waterville, Maine
Tinna K. Wu: Chinese Language Program, Hamline University,
St. Paul, Minnesota
The poster by Zhao Ningmin and Chen Guo/i on the front cover appeared in
the People's Daily (Beijing) of Nov. 26. /984. The slogan on the poster says
"Work makes you rich and helps the nation." The photograph on the back
cover is of Japanese employees eating in a company cafeteria.
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The Chinese Rediscovery of Karl Marx: Some Reflections on Post-Maoist Chinese Marxism by Maurice J. Meisner
One of the more striking features of Chinese Marxist
thought in the years since the death of Mao Tse-tung has been
the revival of many original Marxist concepts and orthodox
Marxist-Leninist perspectives. This, of course, does not accord
with the conventional view of the post-Maoist era which has
it that Mao's successors have all but abandoned Marxism in
favor of "pragmatism." Those who seek Chinese Communist
abandonments of Marxism might be better advised to look to
the Thought of Mao Tse-tung in Maoist times. However that
may be, in this essay I am concerned not with the Maoist past
but with the post-Maoist present. But before beginning the
inquiry into certain aspects of recent Chinese Marxism, perhaps
a word or two should be said to explain (if not necessarily to
justify) the title under which my comments appear, 'The
Chinese Rediscovery of Karl Marx."*
Karl Marx was of course discovered by Chinese
intellectuals during the first decade of the century, largely as
a by-product of their interest in Western anarchist and other
socialist doctrines derived mostly from Japanese and French
sources. Marxist theory did arouse intellectual curiosity among
a few early revolutionary intellectuals, most notably Chu
Chih-hsin, but for the most part it struck few responsive
intellectual or political chords at the time. The reasons for the
lack of appeal are rather obvious. Marxism, in its orthodox
and pre-Leninist form, taught that socialism presupposed
capitalism and the material and social products of a highly­
developed capitalist economy, namely, large-scale industry and
a large and mature urban proletariat. Consequently, it was a
* This essay is based on a paper presented at the Modern China Seminar,
East Asian Institute, Columbia University on April 19. 19X4. Portions of the
essay are drawn from chapter 8 of my book Marxism, Maoism, alld Utopianism
(University of Wisconsin Press, 1982).
doctrine that addressed itself to the workers and intellectuals of
the advanced industrialized countries of the West. It offered
no political message to nationalist intellectuals in a largely
pre-capitalist and mostly agrarian land. Or more precisely, the
political message orthodox Marxism conveyed was the
disheartening one that there was little to do but wait until the
forces of modem capitalist production had completed their
historical work. Few Chinese were attracted to this wisdom,
dispensed in the writings of such orthodox Marxists as Kautsky
and Plekhanov. It was not until the triple impact of the May
Fourth Movement, the Bolshevik Revolution . and the arrival
of the Leninist (and Trotskyist) version of Marxism that
significant numbers of Chinese intellectuals embraced the
In many respects, the embrace was a rather superficial
one-and remained so for many decades. The reasons are
more political than intellectual. Unlike Marxists in Russia and
the Western countries, who generally spent many years
immersed in reading the classic Marxist texts before committing
themselves to a course of political action, youthful Chinese
converts to Marxism lived in a land which lacked a Marxian
Social-Democratic intellectual tradition and one where they
were immediately caught up in what undoubtedly was the most
massive, intensive and desperate revolutionary struggle of the
twentieth century. Those who survived (and most did not) the
prolonged revolutionary trial of more than a quarter of a century
were afforded little time, and even less leisure, to study and
assimilate the inherited body of Marxist theory. It is thus hardly
surprising that the Marxist writings of Chinese Communists
during the revolutionary era, in striking contrast to their
political deeds, do not excite the observer's imagination. The
demands of political struggle no doubt account for the anomaly
that the Marxist works of Chinese Comn~unists often appear
less learned and less theoretically sophisticated than the
writings of such Kuomintang Marxists as Hu Han-min. (In
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rejecting the theory of class struggle, at least insofar as China
was concerned, the Marxist credentials of Hu Han-min and
other non-Communist Marxists are of course a bit suspect­
although it was precisely that rejection which afforded Hu the
leisure to acquire his relative theoretical sophistication. The
history of Marxism in China, as elsewhere, is not without its
The theoretical level of Chinese Marxist writings did not
rise markedly in the years after 1949, even though the volume
increased enormously. If there was now more time and many
more theoreticians to study the doctrine under whose banner
the revolution had been carried out, study and investigation of
the inherited Marxist intellectual tradition was inhibited by the
canonization of Mao Tse-tung Thought as the official Marxist
state orthodoxy (actually canonized, with the generous
assistance of Liu Shao-ch'i, at the Seventh CCP Congress in
1945). The official orthodoxy demanded conformity to
interpretations laid down in Peking on a relatively narrow range
of topics and questions, and confined study of the tradition to
a rather small number of Marxist-Leninist texts (or portions of
texts) officially approved by ideological czars in the capital. If
Marxist intellectuals and scholars read more of Marx and other
Marxists than was formally sanctioned, they wrote little on the
basis of those readings, and virtually nothing found its way to
publication. If Mao was free to make innovations in "Mao
Tse-tung Thought" (and he freely made some rather interesting
ones after 1957), this was not the case for others. On the whole,
the post-1949 period was not an era when creative Marxist
thought flourished in the People's Republic. The impoverish­
ment of official Chinese Marxism in the late Maoist era is
perhaps most strikingly revealed by the fact that the polemical
pamphlets of Yao Wen-yuan (even thin as polemics) were
celebrated as creative innovations-and even taken as serious
theoretical contributions by some serious Western observers of
the People's Republic. (It would be unkind to cite names and
examples at this late date.)
Post-revolutionary eras, Marxist or otherwise, have not
been terribly conducive to intellectual creativity as a general
rule. One exception that comes to mind is the 1920s in the
Soviet Union-a decade of quite extraordinary intellectual and
cultural creativity and utopian experimentation, until stifled by
the imposition of newly-invented Stalinist orthodoxies around
the time of "the great turn." There is no comparable period in
the history of the People's Republic, in any event.
In the post-Mao years much has been heard about a "crisis
of faith" in Marxism in China, not only from many Western
observers who long for an "end of ideology" (and often have
prematurely proclaimed it) but also from official quarters which
have complained about the general inadequacy of Marxist
knowledge while deploring the revival of interest, particularly
among youth, in Social Darwinism, religion, and the ideologies
of the capitalist West. I This latter portrait, fulsomely
reproduced in the Western press over the past few years, is a
rather partial one and partly misleading. To be sure, the
widespread political disillusionment and cynicism resulting
from the Cultural Revolution (or more precisely, its failures)
and from the Byzantine degeneration of political life during
1. For example, Lou Jingbo, "What Should Young People Believe In?", Xin
Shiqi (New Era), November, 1981, pp. 4-7. JPRS 80272, pp. 10-14.
the last years of the Maoist regime continues to find expression
in rejections of, or indifference to, Marxism. But the "crisis
of faith" has been accompanied by a less noticed, but perhaps
more politically and intellectually significant, revival of faith,
a renewal of interest in the entire Western Marxist tradition
and particularly in the original texts of Marx and Engels, so
long neglected during the Maoist era for the most part. The
result has been something of a Marxian renaissance in China,
an era of intellectual and scholarly creativity among the Chinese
Marxist intelligentsia unprecedented in the history of the
People's Republic. While the emphasis has been on the original
writings of the founding fathers of Marxism, there has been a
growing interest in the entire Western Marxist tradition, not
excluding a good many theoreticians (such as Kautsky, Lukacs,
Gramsci, and the writers of the Frankfort School) hitherto
banished from the official Marxist-Leninist pantheon. Over
recent years, Chinese scholars have pursued inquiries into such
previously forbidden or neglected areas as the writings of the
young Marx, Marxist humanism, Western Marxist aesthetics,
the concept of alienation, the theory of the Asiatic mode of
production, and a vast variety of topics in modem world history
as well as the full range of Chinese history and philosophy - to
mention but a few of the many avenues that have been opened
for inquiry.
It should hardly be any cause for surprise that
politically disillusioned Chinese intellectuals today
turn to Marx to seek solutions for the problems
that beset their land-just as politically disillusioned
Confucians in imperial times often sought answers
in an uncorrupted version of the teachings of
In contrast to the Mao period, when there was much
Marxian ideological fervor but little study of Marx, we are
presently witnessing what is undoubtedly the most intensive and
serious era of Marxist scholarship in the history of China. One
example of this Marxian renaissance, although hardly the most
intellectually intriguing one, was the "First National Academic
Forum on Das Kapital" held in Wuxi in December 1981.
Presided over by Yu Guangyuan and Xu Dixin, the forum was
attended by 232 delegates representing 120 research and
educational institutions who (among other things) founded "the
Das Kapital Research Association of China" to coordinate the
activities of the thousands of scholars said to be engaged in
the study of what was described as "the most important work
in Marxist literature.'" Quantitatively, at least, it was a most
2. Yu Guangyuan, "Several Questions on the Research ofDas Kapital," Jingji
Yanjiu (Economic Research), 20 February 1982, p. 10. (JPRS 80478, pp. t-7
for a translation of Yu's article). A summary of the forum appears in Jingji
Yanjiu, 20 February 1982, pp. 3-7.
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impressive affair.
It should hardly be any cause for surprise that politically
disillusioned Chinese intellectuals today turn to Marx to seek
solutions for the problems that beset their land-just as
politically disillusioned Confucians in imperial times often
sought answers in an uncorrupted version of the teachings of
Confucius. Marxism, after all, is the sole politically acceptable
mode of intellectual and political discourse in the People's
Republic, and, more importantly, Marxist theory informs the
dominant worldview of the great majority of the contemporary
Chinese intelligentsia. At least among social scientists and
humanists, as distinct from the numerically larger technological
intelligentsia, basic Marxist assumptions and concepts are
generally (if not necessarily universally) accepted, even though
they may be differently understood and variously interpreted.
However that may be, they share the view that during much
of the Mao era the inherited Marxist tradition was both
neglected and distorted.
If Marx has been rediscovered by Chinese Marxists in the
post-Mao period, they have searched for-and found-rather
different ideas in the classic texts. Whereas official ideologists
have seized upon the more economically deterministic strands
in the Marxist tradition, many individual Marxist intellectuals
have been drawn to the writings of the "young Marx," to the
long tradition of Marxist "humanism," and especially to the
concept of alienation. In part they have been searching less for
ideological rationalizations for the policies of the current
regime than for a moral basis for socialism and ethical
philosophy of life.
Thus there is a distinction to be drawn in post-Maoist
Chinese Marxism between the official Marxist ideology of the
Party and the Marxism of the intelligentsia, although there is
much intellectual overlapping and the ideological lines are
indistinct. Certainly a good many members of the intelligentsia,
consciously or not, have provided copious ideological,
theoretical and historiographical support for the Deng regime.
On the other hand, some official ideologists have lapsed into
ideological heresies, most notably Marx's concept of alienation.
It is both ironic and heartening to observe Chou Yang, so long
a guardian of official ideological orthodoxies and veteran
witchhunter, drawn in his later years to the writings of the
young Marx. And it is heartening if not necessarily ironic to
read the Marxian humanist and democratic writings of an
official theoretician of the stature of Wang Roshui. Both Chou
and Wang, of course, along with others, have paid political
penalties for their ideological heresies; Chou Yang has publicly
confessed his ideological sins and Wang Roshui was dismissed
from his post as deputy managing editor of the People's Daily.
The Marxist theory of alienation, with its universally radical
social and political implications, is of course threatening to
anyone in power and, as recent events have confirmed, is no
more likely to be tolerated by the present regime than it was
by its predecessors-or for that matter, than by its counterparts
elsewhere. The theory of alienation not only raises embarrassing
questions about the alienation of workers from the products of
their labor; it also teaches that the state is an expression of
alienated social power. This is not a message that holders of
state power typically find congenial.
The relationship between the official Marxist ideology of
the party under its current leadership and the Marxism of the
intellectuals, insofar as a meaningful distinction might be
drawn between the two, is a matter filled with complexities
and ambiguities which I fear I am ill-prepared to attempt to
discuss here. Perhaps it might suffice for the moment to note
that while the former (official Party ideology) certainly places
political and ideological limitations on the latter, the limits thus
far have been sufficiently broad (albeit narrowing in the last
year or two) to permit a remarkable degree of intellectual
creativity and theoretical innovation on the part of the
intelligentsia. Indeed, the recent flourishing of Marxist thought
in China bears certain affinities to the reanimation of Marxism
in the Eastern European countries during the post-Stalin "thaw"
in the 1950s and 1960s, movements of intellectual and political
renewal variously labelled "revisionism" and/or "democratic
socialism." Whether the Chinese movement will prove
abortive, as did its East European counterparts, remains to be
seen. China, of course, is not subject to the same kinds of
external Soviet pressures as are the East European countries,
but the internal workings of the Leninist party-state apparatus
may well result in the imposition of a new ideological
straitjacket, albeit one differing in form and content from the
discarded Maoist one.
Yet apart from the ultimate political and ideological
implications of current Chinese Marxist thought, it is certainly
now clear that the history of Marxism in China did not come
to an end with the canonization of "Maoism" but rather has
resumed processes of change which have proceeded in new
and unanticipated directions. Those processes of change call
for, among other things, a reconsideration of Benjamin
Schwartz's influential thesis that Marxism has undergone
progressive phases of "disintegration" or "decomposition" in
its journey eastward-to Russia and China-from its Western
European homeland. 3 Whatever the utility of the thesis for
studying the history of Chinese Marxism in its Maoist phase,
it has little relevance for understanding Chinese Marxist
thought in its current phase. Post-Maoist Chinese Marxist
writings, far from showing signs of "decomposition," are above
all characterized by the revival of (and return to) many original
and orthodox Marxist conceptions. Indeed, contemporary
Chinese Marxism, both as an official ideology and as an
ideology of the intelligentsia, is a doctrine whose authors seek
to establish firm (albeit often politically selective) links to the
Western Marxist theoretical and intellectual tradition.
The pages which follow are concerned primarily with the
official Marxist ideology of the Party in the post-Maoist era
and largely ignore the Marxist writings of the intelligentsia.
(The latter is far more intellectually interesting but the former
may prove more politically significant.) Moreover, the essay
makes no attempt to treat, much less evaluate, the whole of
official theory, which now has grown into a voluminous and
complex body of economic, political and historical literature.
Rather, the focus is on what appears to me to be one of the
less positive tendencies in the post-Maoist version of Chinese
Marxism, namely, the profoundly anti-utopian character of the
doctrine. Whether the purge of the "utopian" elements from
the body of official theory still celebrated as "Marxism­
Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought" is viewed as desirable or
not depends, of course, on one's point of view. From an
orthodox Marxist point of view, the elimination of the utopian
3. The thesis was of course set forth more than three decades ago in Schwartz's
pioneering study Chinese Communism and the Rise ofMao (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 1951), and subsequently has been repeated, with
variations, by Schwartz and a variety of other scholars.
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aspects of Maoism should be regarded as a desirable and
progressive development, removing from the scene ideological
conceptions and visions (and actions inspired by them) which
exceed the limits of "objective historical possibilities" -and
thus removing one source of destructive or regressive
tendencies. Such a view would be shared by orthodox
modernization theorists, who regard utopian social strivings,
and indeed socialist goals in general, as at best "dysfunctional"
elements in an inevitable and universal "modernization
My own point of view is rather different, and might briefly
be summarized at the outset. The discussion which follows
rests on the premise that without a utopian reading of Marx,
and the voluntaristic and politically activist impulses such a
reading sanctions, Marxism would have been politically
impotent and historically irrelevant in the essentially pre­
industrial environment of modern China. And I would further
suggest that had it not been for the survival of a vital utopian
vision of the socialist future in post-1949 China, Marxism in
the People's Republic would have become-and is probably
now becoming - little more than an ideology of modernization.
Such has been the fate of Marxism in the Soviet Union and
elsewhere, and it offers abundant historical evidence for Adam
Ulam's gloomy prediction that "socialism, once it assumes
power, has as its mission the fullest development of the
productive resources of society," that the socialist state "will
in no wise proceed differently from the capitalist," and that
"socialism continues and intensifies all the main characteristics
of capitalism."4
For Marxism to retain its vitality as a force for social
revolutionary change, an activistic utopianism remains essen­
tial, both in pre- and post-revolutionary societies. With the
waning of that utopian spirit, Marxism in the advanced
industrialized countries becomes an ideology that adapts itself
to the social reformism of the capitalist "welfare state." And
in "socialist" societies it degenerates into vacuous revolutionary
rhetoric only thinly disguising the banal nationalist and
modernizing aims of the rulers of autonomous bureaucracies. 5
1. The Post-Revolutionary Era
"The socialists might conquer, but not socialism, which
would perish in the moment of its adherents' triumph," Robert
Michels wrote at the turn of the century. 6 The histories of
twentieth-century socialist revolutions offer little evidence, and
even less comfort, for those who might be inclined to dispute
Michels' cynical prediction. However one may choose to judge
the social and economic accomplishments of revolutions which
have proceeded under Marxi!it political auspi<;;es-and judg­
ments of course differ-few would judge that socialist
revolutions have produced socialist societies. The Marxist
promise of "a truly human life" remains unfulfilled, and there
is nothing on the contemporary historical horizon to sustain a
4. Adam Ulam, The Unfinished Revolution (New York: Random House,
1960), p. 45.
5. For a discussion of the relationship between Marxism and utopianism, see
Maurice Meisner, Marxism. Maoism and Utopianism (Madison: University
of Wisconsin Press, 1982), chapter I.
6. Roben Michels, Political Parties (Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1949), p.
faith that the promise will be realized under any of the current
Communist regimes which rule over what all too easily are
labelled socialist societies.
The failure of revolutions to achieve the goals proclaimed
by their leaders and ideologists is of course not a peculiarity
of contemporary socialist revolutions. It has been the general
historical case that great social revolutions have been inspired
by great utopian visions of a future perfect social order-and
it has been no less generally the case that such grand visions
have perished in the post-revolutionary era. It is not simply a
matter of revolutionaries in power betraying their ideals and
their hopes for a radically new and better society (although
that is a common enough phenomenon), but rather that the
political and economic conditions of post-revolutionary situa­
tions seem to impel revolutionaries-turned-rulers to com­
promise with existing realities and with the traditions of the
past. The process of the postponement and ritualization of
utopian social goals, and the manipulation of utopian symbols
to ideologically rationalize new forms of social inequality and
political oppression, is of course an all too familiar pattern in
the history of revolutions, and there are familiar formulae which
describe the process. Perhaps the most familiar is Crane
Brinton's thesis of the "universality of the Thermidorian
reaction," which Brinton defines as that point in the
revolutionary process when there is a "convalescence from the
fever of revolution," the decline of revolutionary utopianism,
and a return to "normalcy. "7 A recent variant of Brinton's thesis
is Robert Tucker's intriguing argument on the "deradicaliza­
tion" of Marxist movements-the presumably inevitable
willingness, sooner or later, of Marxist revolutionaries to come
to terms with the existing order of things. 8
It is no argument against revolution in general to
acknowledge that the directions societies take in the wake of
successful revolutionary upheavals are usually far different than
those originally envisioned, and that the utopian visions
essential to revolutionary endeavors are hopes which fade and
die in post-revolutionary eras. Barrington Moore was perhaps
too optimistic in drawing from his study of modern revolutions
the generalization that "the utopian radical conceptions of one
phase become the accepted institutions and philosophical
platitudes of the next,"9 If utopian visions of the future survive
successful revolutions, they do so only in distorted and
disfigured form. They serve less as the foundations for new
institutions than as ritualized ideological slogans manipulated
to justify the institutionalization of social orders which bear
but faint resemblances to the original conceptions. Indeed, the
tragedy of revolution resides precisely in the fact that utopian
hopes do become transformed into philosophical platitudes
rather than surviving as living sources of inspiration for social
action. That such terms as "Thermidor," "Bonapartism," and
"deradicalization" have become commonplace in descriptions
of the life cycles of revolutions is itself testimony to the
unhappy fate of utopian hopes and revolutionary ideals. They
7. Crane Brinton, The Anatomy of Revolution, rev. ed. (New York: Vintage,
1%5), pp. 205-36.
8. Robert C, Tucker, 'The Deradicalization of Marxist Movements," in Robert
C. Tucker, The Marxian Revolutionary Idea (New York: Norton, 1969), pp.
172-214. 9, Barrington Moore, Social Origins ofDictaJorship and Democracy (Boston, Beacon Press, 1966), p, 505. 5
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suggest not the simple failure of revolution but rather a process
of degeneration which seems inherent in its very success. There
is perhaps some measure of historical validity in the view that
"the truth of all revolutions is not that they tum into
counterrevolutions but that they become boring."'o
The incongruity between utopian revolutionary ideals and
post-revolutionary realities might best be understood less in
terms of personal limitations of revolutionaries than in light of
the historical limitations imposed by the conditions of their
times. For the utopian visions which inspire revolutions, and
the even higher utopian hopes which periods of revolutionary
upheaval arouse, always far outrun objective historical
possibilities. The communitarian and egalitarian dreams of the
Levellers and the Diggers in the English Civil War clashed
with, and eventually were submerged by, the interests of the
propertied classes in establishing an order favorable to the
growth of modem capitalist commerce and industry. The social
results of the French Revolution bore little resemblance to the
great ideals of liberte, egalite. Jraternite-and the radical
intellectuals who proclaimed them and the radicalized plebeians
who fought for them were soon swept off the historical stage
once the destruction of the ancien regime was accomplished.
As Isaac Deutscher observed: "The irrationality of the Puritan
and Jacobin revolutions arose largely out of the clash between
the high hopes of the insurgent masses and the bourgeois
limitations of those revolutions. "II
The clash between revolutionary utopian hopes and
objective historical limitations has been especially acute in the
case of twentieth-century socialist revolutions. Karl Marx
insisted that socialism presupposed a highly developed
industrial economy and a large and politically mature
proletariat, the products of modem capitalism. But it has been
the great irony of the history of Marxism in the modem world
that Marxist-led revolutions have succeeded not in the advanced
industrialized countries which, Marxist theory taught, were
prepared for a socialist reorganization of society, but rather in
economically backward nations lacking the Marxian-defined
material and social prerequisites for socialism. The post­
revolutionary results of this incongruity are well known.
Having achieved power in countries laboring under the burdens
of agrarian backwardness, Marxist revolutionaries have been
forced to tum their energies to industrializing the backward
lands over which they have come to rule; in effect, they have
been confronted with the task of building the preconditions for
socialism rather than socialism itself. As Marxist rulers
undertake the work of modem economic development which
earlier and abortive capitalist regimes failed to accomplish, and
create massive bureaucratic state structures to preside over the
modernization process, socialist goals are postponed. Indus­
trialization, originally conceived as the means to attain socialist
ends, soon acquires a dynamic of its own and, indeed. tends
to become an end in itself. And while the means and values
of modern economic development are lasting, the goals of
socialism are relegated to an increasingly vague and indefinite
future, and eventually degenerate into ritualized ideological
slogans invoked to spur production and to provide a spurious
political legitimacy. In the end, the subjective aims of the
revolutionaries seem vanquished by the objective limitations
of history and the socialist regime appears little more than
"capitalism without capitalists," to borrow Adam Ulam' s
suggestive phrase. 12
The Maoist era of the People's Republic seemed to
promise a radical departure from these familiar processes of
the post-revolutionary institutionalization of an industrializing
order and the ritualization of utopian goals. Rather than
declining after the political triumph of 1949 the utopian impulse
in Maoism grew stronger and the commitment to ultimate
Marxian aims took on increasingly chiliastic overtones in the
1950s and 1960s, portending new and ever more radical
revolutionary dramas which attempted to enact the prologue to
a communist future-although the Maoist dramas, as we now
know, took an enormous human and economic toll. Economic
backwardness, rather than serving as a reason to postpone the
socialist reorganization of society, was converted into a
socialist advantage in Maoist ideology. The proclaimed
socialist virtues of being "poor and blank," though a startling
inversion of Marxist and Leninist orthodoxies, by no means
implied that Mao envisioned a communist society residing in
perpetual conditions of material impoverishment. The moderni­
zation of China was no less highly placed on Mao's political
agenda than it is on that of his successors. But modernization,
during the Maoist era, was accompanied by a unique
willingness (however flawed in practice) to confront the
dilemma of the means and ends of socialism in an economically
backward land, by a demand to reconcile the means of
industrialization with the goals and values of socialism and
communism. Through a process of "permanent revolution"
which demanded increasingly radical social and ideological
transformations, the ultimate goals prophesied in Marxist
theory were to be striven for (and realized in at least embryonic
form) in the here and now, in the very process of constructing
their Marxian-defined economic prerequisites. During the first
quarter-century of the history of post-revolutionary China, at
least during times when Mao and Maoists held sway, there
were few signs of the presumably inevitable process of
"deradicalization ...
Yet Maoist utopianism, for better or worse, has not
survived the passing of Mao Tse-tung from the historical scene.
It doubtless is hazardous to predict the future of Chinese society
on the basis of current Chinese political and ideological
proclivities, much less on the basis of the historical experience
of other post-revolutionary societies. The Chinese Revolution
has taken a good many unanticipated radical turns over the
decades, and it may yet produce new revolutionary dramas by
actors who now wait in the wings. But from the vantage of
the present it would appear that the Chinese Revolution, albeit
more belatedly than most revolutions, has not eluded "the
universality of the Thermidorian reaction." The depoliticization
of socioeconomic life and the deradicalization of political life
in the years since the death of Mao Tse-tung--or what most
foreign observers celebrate as the "pragmatism" of the policies
of the post-Mao leadership- has been accompanied by the
10. Kenneth Allsop. The Spectator (March 1959). as quoted in James H.
Meisel. Counter-Revolution (New York: Atherton. 1966). p. xii.
II. Isaac Deutscher. The Unfinished Rel'Olution: Russia 1917-1967 (London:
Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 27.
12. Adam Ulam. The Unfinished Rn'ollllioll (New York: Random Hou,e.
1960). p. 45.
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emergence of a new version of Chinese Marxist theory which
both reflects and promotes an accommodation to the existing
social order. The doctrine that is still officially termed
"Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought" now bears little
resemblance to what it was during the Maoist era. It is above
all a doctrine from which all utopian elements and impulses
have been purged, and one in which new authors have rewritten
or abandoned most of what was distinctively "Maoist" in the
Chinese version of Marxism in favor of more orthodox
Marxist-Leninist perspectives.13 Several of the more salient
features of this recent process of ideological transformation
might be briefly examined for what they reveal about the nature
of the contemporary Marxist mentality-and about the
intellectual processes involved in the deradicalization of a once
revolutionary movement.
2. Economic Determinism and the
Objective Laws of Development
One of the more striking and pervasive characteristics of
Chinese Marxism in the post-Mao era is a newly found faith
in the existence of objective laws of historical and economic
development. Whereas Maoism (during the Maoist era) was
characterized by a highly voluntaristic faith in the ability of
people armed with the proper will and consciousness to conquer
all material barriers and mold social reality in accordance with
their ideas and ideals, Chinese Marxist theoreticians now view
history in more orthodox Marxist fashion, as a more or less
natural process governed by immutable laws which operate
independently of human wishes and desires. As typically stated:
"The laws of development of social history are objective laws
which cannot be changed at will. They should be treated the
same as the laws of the process of natural history. "14 It is a
faith similar to that held by Plekhanov who insisted that the
Marxist must swim with "the streams of History ," proclaiming
that the forces of history "have nothing to do with human will
and consciousness." 15
Objective social and historical laws, post-Maoist
ideologists believe, can be determined with a scientific
accuracy approximating the precision of research in the natural
sciences. There is indeed now an enormous and growing
emphasis on the scientific character of Marxism, which, it is
proclaimed, can reveal the laws of both nature and history.
The tendency to equate the laws of nature with the laws of
history gives an almost positivistic cast to the contemporary
Chinese Marxist mentality. "The development of society," it
13. This, of course, does not preclude copious quotations from the works of
Mao. Indeed, since late 1981, there has been a growing celebration of Mao
Tse-tung's theoretical contributions to Marxism, particularly prior to 1958 and,
needless to say, in politically selective fashion.
14. Discussion at Institute of Philosophic Research. Chinese Academy of
Social Sciences, Peking, 25 June 1980. The comment was made to a group
of seven Western scholars, including this writer, who held talks with leading
Chinese Marxist theoreticians and scholars in the People's Republic from IS
June to IS July 1980. Further references to statements made during the course
of these conversations will be entitled "Discussions" and will indicate the
place, time and institution but not the individual speaker. The trip to China
was made possible through the assistance of a research grant from the National
Endowment for the Humanities.
IS. G. Plekhanov, lzbrannyefilosofskie proizvedeniya (Moscow, 1956), Vol.
4, p. 86. Quoted in A. Walicki, The Controversy over Capitalism (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1969), p. 159.
is repeatedly declared, "is just like the development of the
material world and is determined by objective rules."16
Just as there are general objective laws of history whose
dictates must be obeyed, so, it is believed, there are specific
(but no less objective) economic laws which govern the
development of a socialist society. Progress is therefore
dependent on discovering what are termed "the objective laws
of socialist economic development" and pursuing policies in
accordance with them. To do otherwise invites disaster, for
"objective economic laws are inviolable and {those] who violate
them will be punished." The most flagrant violators of such
laws were of course Lin Piao and the "Gang of Four" (and,
by implication, Mao Tse-tung)-and the Chinese nation which
was subjected to their ill-advised and nonscientific policies was
duly "punished by the law of objectivity."17
Although the existence of objective laws governing
"socialist economic development" is taken for granted, the
nature and content of such laws remains less than entirely clear.
Save for invoking "objective economic laws" to ideologically
rationalize whatever policies the regime happens to be pursuing
at any given moment, the theoreticians have thus far confined
themselves to repeating, at very considerable length, some of
the more deterministic formulations of Marx, Engels, and
Stalin. From Marx there is derived the familiar proposition that
the economic "base" determines the sociopolitical "superstruc­
ture"; it was the inversion of the proper relationship between
base and superstructure, it is charged, that was responsible for
many of the most grievous errors of the past. (A much favored
source of textual authority is Marx's well-known summary of
the materialist conception of history in the preface to the
Critique of Political Economy, a statement which easily lends
itself to an economically deterministic interpretation, as well
as a variety of deterministic formulations in the later writings
of Engels.) Stalin, while sometimes criticized, is more often
praised for his correct exposition of "the economic laws of
socialism," especially the law that the social relations of
production must conform to the level of productive forces, the
law that the national economy must be developed according to
a plan, and the continued operation of commodity production
and the law of value in a socialist economy. 18
The belief in objective historical and economic laws
appears in the context of a new Chinese Marxist mentality
characterized by an increasingly economically deterministic
interpretation of the doctrine in general. This is especially
apparent in prevailing views on the question of the material
preconditions for socialism. Whereas Mao Tse-tung believed
that a "continuous" process of the transformation of social
relationships and popular consciousness must accompany (and
indeed precede) the process of modem economic development
in order to bring about a socialist historical outcome, his
political and ideological successors emphasize the orthodox
16. Che-hsueh yen-chiu (Philosophic Research) (Feb. 1979), JPRS 73710: 13.
17. Xue Muqiao, "Study and Apply the Objective Laws of Socialist Economic
Development," Jingji Yanjiu (Economic Research), 1979, No.6 (JPRS 84029).
Hu Chiao-mu began his celebrated July 1978 speech with the proposition,
presumably derived from Marx, that "economic laws are like natural laws."
"Observe Economic Laws, Speed Up the Four Modernizations," Peking
Review, November 10, 1978, p.7.
18. For example, Xue Muqiao, "Study and Apply the Objective Laws of
Socialist Economic Development," pp. 7ff.
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Marxist view that the prior development of productive forces
to a very high level is the first and essential prerequisite for a
socialist society. Marxism, it is stressed, teaches that
"socialism can only be built on a foundation of highly
developed socialized large-scale production."19 And, it is
further stressed, the process of constructing such necessary
economic preconditions will span a lengthy historical era. As
one leading theoretician recently speculated: "Perhaps by the
year 2050 we shall accomplish our high degree of moderniza­
tion, the developed stage of socialism."20 Other writers have
observed that modern capitalism developed over a period of
four centuries, suggesting that the development of socialism
will span an equally lengthy historical era. And it is said that
the transition from socialism to communism will require "a
level of productive forces much higher than what is already
attained in developed capitalist countries. "21
The emphasis on objective laws of history, at least as
presented in post-Maoist Chinese Marxist literature, serves less
to convey an optimistic faith in the historical inevitability of a
socialist future (although the inevitability of communism is of
course ritualistically proclaimed) than it does as a warning that
objective reality imposes stringent limits on the possibilities
for human action and social change. For, it is repeatedly
emphasized, the laws which presumably determine the course
of historical development "cannot be altered by the will of
man," nor, for that matter, even by "the subjective will of the
Party."22 Men thus must recognize the restraints imposed by
objective laws and obey their dictates. Indeed it is assumed
that the economic failures and political turbulence of the Maoist
era resulted from an exaggerated stress on the factors of human
will and consciousness-and from premature changes in the
social relations of production. The notion that the "super­
structure" might play a decisive role in historical development
is now condemned as a "reactionary theory" propagated by Lin
Piao and the Gang of Four, or, at best, as a species of historical
idealism. 23 Moreover, the literature is filled with quotations
from Marx and Engels warning of the dangers of economic
stagnation and historical regression resulting from attempts to
eliminate class distinctions before the productive forces have
developed to a sufficiently high level. 24
By invoking objective historical and economic laws, and
by making the socialist utopia dependent on their workings,
post-Maoist Chinese Marxist theory postpones socialism and
communism to an indefinite time in the future and counsels
19. Li Yinha and Lin Chun, ''Tentative Discussion on the Struggle Against
Vestiges of Feudalism in China During the Period of Building Socialism,"
Lishi Yanjiu (Historical Research), 1979, No.9, JPRS 74829, p. 32.
20. "Discussions," Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought Institute,
Peking, 17 June 1980. 21 Xue Muqiao, China's Socialist Economy (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1981), p. 307. 22. Xue, "Study and Apply the Objective Laws of Socialist Economic
Development," p. 7.
23. For an interesting (and controversial) article interpreting late Maoism as
an abandonment of historical materialism in favor of idealism, see Ying Xueli
and Sun Hui, "Some Theoretical Questions Regarding the Later Period of
Socialist Transformation in Our Country," Nanjing Daxue Xuebao (11
November 1980), pp. 98-104. (JPRS 79073), pp. 21-30.
24. For example, Xu He, "We must Achieve an Overall Understanding of
the Theory of Marx and Engels on Public Ownership," Jiefang Ribao, II March
1982, p. 5. (JPRS 81134, pp. 33-36).
that people can do little to hasten the arrival of the good society.
For objective social laws, particularly when they are conceived
as analogous to the laws of nature, work slowly and yield their
presumably socialist results only gradually, and thus it would
be "utopian" and "unscientific" to anticipate the hoped-for
society in the foreseeable future. And since objective laws
cannot be altered by human will and consciousness-and
indeed since recent historical experience allegedly teaches that
such intrusions are not only historically fruitless but politically
pernicious-the socialist future is made ultimately dependent
on the impersonal workings of such presumably objective
historical and economic laws. Moreover, both the lengthy and
impersonal nature of the process is underlined by the repeated
insistence that the very highest level of the development of
productive forces is the first and essential prerequisite for the
emergence of a genuine socialist society. And as China is an
impoverished and backward land, the road to be traveled is a
long and arduous one, and the destination lies far in the
distance. In the meantime, human energies are to be devoted
almost exclusively to productive work, not to the building of
socialism but rather to the task of constructing its necessary
economic foundations.
What is therefore envisioned in the contemporary Chinese
Marxist mentality is an essentially evolutionary rather than
revolutionary process of historical development governed by
the operation of objective laws rather than by human desires
and visionary hopes. The radical aspects of the Maoist tradition
which are incongruous with this evolutionary perspective are
naturally eliminated from the reinterpreted body of orthodox
doctrine which is still presented under the label of "Marxism­
Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought." Mao's theory of "perma­
nent revolution," for example, is now denounced as non­
Marxist,ls or sometimes simply reinterpreted as meaning no
more than a "technological revolution, identical in meaning
with modernization."26 And Mao's doctrine of the continuance
of class struggle under socialism has been replaced by a doctrine
which announces the withering away of class struggle. Just as
Stalin announced the cessation of class struggle in the Soviet
Union in 1936, so Chinese Communist leaders now proclaim
that "class struggle has ceased to be the principal contradiction
in our society,'>27 sometimes dismissed as no more than "a
legacy from the past."28 The notion that class conflict has all
but ceased, the further implications of which will be discussed
shortly, reinforces the image (if not necessarily the reality) of
a harmonious and stable society developing in a smooth and
evolutionary fashion. For the purpose of the present discussion,
it will perhaps suffice to note than an evolutionary conception
of social development largely excludes human purpose from
the historical scheme of things and is certainly incongruous
with any sort of visionary utopianism. "Were sqme /l~opian
social order to emerge from process of evolution,"it has been
observed, "it would be a long time coming, and essentially
25. Jen-minjih-pao (People's Daily), 19 June 1980.
26. "Discussions," Institute of Philosophic Research, Chinese Academy of
Social Sciences, Peking, 25 June 1980.
27. "Fundamental Change in China's Class Situation," Beijing Review, 23
November 1979, p. 17.
28. "Discussions," Marxism-Leninism-Mau Tse-Iung Tbought Institute. 17
June 1980.
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accidental. "29
3. The Burdens of History
The postponement of radical social change, and the
message that the socialist and communist utopia lies far in the
distant historical future, are further conveyed by a new
historical analysis which places an enormous emphasis on the
persistence of China's "feudal" past. 30 Although it is maintained
that China is a socialist society, it is a country that still suffers
from the weight of its long history, a past which manifests
itself in the present both in the form of a heritage of economic
backwardness and in the persistence of a deeply ingrained
"feudal consciousness." The economic and ideological burdens
of the past, it is suggested, make the development of socialism
a far more difficult and lengthy process than hitherto
This pessimistic assessment of the effects of China's
lingering "feudal backwardness" stands in striking contrast to
the Maoist perception of the relationship between China's past,
present and future. Mao, inspired by a utopian impulse to
escape history, converted China's heritage of backwardness
into socialist advantages. Whereas the bourgeoisie had
dominated the advanced industrialized countries of the West
for nearly three centuries, thus making "the poisons of the
bourgeoisie very powerful" and permeating "every nook and
cranny" of Western societies, China, he argued, was fortunate
to suffer only three generations of bourgeois class dominance.
Whereas the capitalist regime in the West was firmly
consolidated and thus resistant to radical social and ideological
transformation, China, relatively unencumbered by capitalist
influences, was amenable to continuous processes of revolution­
ary transformation. And whereas the moral corruptions inherent
in the overly mature and ossified capitalist countries had sapped
the revolutionary spirit of their working classes, the Chinese
people were characterized by the virtues of being "poor and
blank" -and, as Mao so often proclaimed, poor people want
change and revolution while blank sheets of paper offer the
opportunity to write the newest revolutionary words. From
these beliefs in the advantages of backwardness, Mao drew a
strikingly optimistic conclusion: "Lenin said: 'The more
backward the country, the more difficult its transition from
capitalism to socialism. ' Now it seems that this way of speaking
is incorrect. As a matter of fact, the more backward the
economy, the easier, not the more difficult, the transition from
capitalism to socialism."3) Backwardness, to be sure, was to
be overcome, but it was the special moral and revolutionary
potentialities inherent in that very condition which held the
promise of China's future socialist greatness. Just as in the
Biblical prophecy that the last shall be first, Mao believed that
the backward were destined to soon overtake the advanced. It
was a faith similar to the nineteenth-century Russian Populist
belief that backward Russia, yet uncorrupted by capitalism,
was closer to the realization of socialism than the industrialized
countries of the West which, precisely because of the effects
of capitalist industrialization, no longer possessed the moral
energies to achieve their own socialist ideals. 32
There is indeed now an enormous and growing
emphasis on the scientific character of Marxism,
which, it is proclaimed, can reveal the laws ofboth
nature and history. The tendency to equate the
laws of nature with the laws of history gives an
almost positivistic cast to the contemporary
Chinese Marxist mentality. "The development of
society," it is repeatedly declared, "is just like the
development of the material world and is
determined by objective rules."
These eminently Maoist notions are now condemned in
orthodox Marxist-Leninist fashions as "utopian" and "reaction­
ary ," although the heresies are not always attributed directly
to Mao who authored them, but rather to the author's evil
associates. In post-Maoist Chinese Marxist ideology, there are no
advantages, socialist or otherwise, to be found in China's
economic, social, and cultural backwardness. Indeed, the
absence of a full and genuine capitalist phase of development
in modem Chinese history is regarded as a great historical
tragedy, for it is now taken as an article of Marxist faith that
"capitalism is a necessary element in the victory over feudal
relationships"; and, it is stressed, "Marxism holds that
socialism is the outcome of basic production relationships when
capitalism is at a high stage of development, and that socialism
can only be built on a foundation of highly developed socialized
large-scale production. "33 But China was precluded from reaping
32. The argument was first set forth in the early 1850s by Alexander Herzen,
especially in "The Russian People and Socialism." See A. Herzen, From the
Other Shore (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1956), pp. 165-208.
33. The post· Maoist critiques of Mao on this issue are usually implicit, and
invariably cite the authority of the classic Marxist texts. For example: "After
the seizure of political power by the proletariat, the speed by which socialism
is built in a country depends on the developmental level of industry and all
productive forces at the time. History has repeatedly proved that this concept
of Marx and Engels is entirely correct. But during the past, we somehow held
that, although China is economically backward and because it has been subject
to less bourgeois influence, it should have been easier to build socialism (in
China) than in countries like England and America." Xu He, "We Must Achieve
an Overall Understanding of the Theory of Marx and Engels on Public
Ownership," liefang Ribao, II March 1982, p.5 (JPRS 81134, p. 34).
29. Wilbert E. Moore. "The Utility of Utopias," American Sociological
I f the abortive ness of capitalism and the consequent condition of economic
Rel'ie... 31 (1966): 767.
backwardness makes the building of socialism a more difficult task, as is now
30. For example, Li and Lin. "Tentative Discussion on the Struggle Against
held to be the case, there remains the question of why socialist revolutions
Vestiges of Feudalism." pp. 29-42.
have taken place in the backward lands and not in the industrially developed
31. Mao Tse-tung. "Reading Notes on the Soviet Union's 'Political
ones. a problem about which much has been written in recent years. The
Economy ...· Mao Tse·tung .Hu·hsiang \l'all sui (Long Live the Thought of
proclivity is to invoke the "weak link" notion in Lenin's theory of imperialism,
Mao T,e·tun~) (Taipei. n.p .. 1969). pp ..H3-34.
which some writers have universalized into a general historical law. For
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the material and social benefits of capitalism due to the
combination of foreign imperialism and domestic feudalism, a
"mutual collusion" which inhibited the emergence of a genuine
national bourgeoisie and instead gave rise to a "bureaucratic
compradore bourgeoisie and its political domination." Under
this regime, "the old feudal system never sustained total
destruction. "34
If China avoided many of the evils of capitalism, it
suffered all the more because the abortiveness of capitalism
facilitated the persistence of its pernicious feudal heritage.
And that heritage survived into the post-revolutionary era,
distorting the political and economic life of the new society:
"In a country as backward as China, even following the seizure
of power by the proletariat, a restoration of feudalism continued
to be the most important danger faced by the revolution. History
is not severed by a single stroke of the knife. . . ."35
The persistence of "feudalism," and the continued danger
of a "feudal restoration," are attributed not only to the objective
conditions of the modem Chinese historical situation but also
the political and ideological failings of the Chinese Communist
Party. If modem capitalism proved abortive in China, and if
the indigenous bourgeoisie was too weak a social class to fulfill
its historic mission, then the task of carrying out the
bourgeois-democratic phase of the revolution fell to the Chinese
Communist Party. But the Party's "new democratic" revolution,
it is acknowledged, was less than completely successful, 36
partly because the Party gravely underestimated the vestiges
of feudalism, and partly because of the Party's "metaphysical
denial ... of all positive results of the growth of capitalism. "37
Thus a "feudal consciousness," deeply-rooted in a two­
thousand-year-old tradition of an unchanging "small-scale
peasant economy," persisted into the post-revolutionary era,
there sustained by a relatively slow rate of modem economic
growth and there finding its natural social base among a
peasantry still mired in feudalistic habits, traditions, and ways
of thought. Thus China remained not with the Maoist virtues
of being "poor and blank" but in a deplorable "state of poverty
and blankness."38 And it was this state of affairs, it is argued,
that was in large measure responsible for the political and
economic errors which marred the last years of the Maoist era.
This argument, pursued with many variations, is note-
example: ". . . in the history of Western Europe the replacement of countries
under the slave system by countries under the feudal system and the replacement
in tum of feudal countries by capitalist countries likewise did not first occur
in countries with a mature develoment of an old or existing system but rather
in countries with weak links to an old or existing system." Economically strong
countries, it is further pointed out, are more resistant to the assaults of
newly-emerging classes. Wu Shuqing, "Theoretical Explanations on the
Advantages of the Socialist System." Jingji Yanjiu (Economic Research), 20
December 1981, pp. 72-75. (JPRS 79980, pp. 45-52). It is thus that Chinese
Marxists confront the paradox that economically backward lands lend
themselves to socialist political revolutions but not to the construction of
socialist societies.
34. Li and Lin, "Tentative Discussion on the Struggle Against Vestiges of
Feudalism," pp. 30-33.
35. Ibid., p. 33.
36. "On the Ideology of Feudalism," Wen-hui pao, 16 September 1979; JPRS
37. Li and Lin, "Tentative Discussion on the Struggle Against Vestiges of
Feudalism," pp. 34 and 38.
38. "On the Ideology of Feudalism," p. 13.
worthy on several counts, not least among them the
reappearance of orthodox Marxist views on the historically
progressive character of capitalism and the revival of orthodox
Marxist judgments about the peasantry. A fully-developed and
mature modem capitalist economy and culture, it is emphasized
in recent writings, is the natural historical remedy for the
lingering influences of feudalism. While few advocate
abandoning the existing "socialist" system in favor of
establishing a full-fledged capitalist regime, at least not in
official print, there is much emphasis on the necessity and
desirability of inheriting both the material and cultural legacies
of world capitalism. 39 There is the further implication, often
made rather explicit, that "Chinese socialism" will incorporate
many of the features, forms and practices histori<:ally associated
with capitalism for many decades to come. 40
Even more striking is the reappearance in official
ideology-on a scale not present in Chinese Marxist writings
since the early I920s-of orthodox Marxist analyses of the
political and ideological limitations of peasants, frequently
accompanied by conventionally pejorative Marxist imagery on
"the idiocy of rural life ." For Mao the sources of revolutionary
creativity and social progress resided in the countryside, and
the peasantry was the true revolutionary class. In post-Maoist
Chinese Marxist theory, by contrast, peasants are portrayed as
narrow in their thinking and conservative in their habits, and
the countryside in general is seen as the repository of stagnation
and backwardness. A much-quoted source of textual authority
is Marx's unflattering description of peasants in the Eighteenth
Brumaire-and even Red Flag approvingly notes that Marx
depicted the peasantry as "a sack of potatoes. "'41 These views
have been eagerly adopted by Marxist historians who, in
accordance with the new emphasis on the decisive role of
productive forces, no longer champion the historical pro­
gressiveness of peasant wars.
The Taiping Rebellion, hitherto celebrated as part of the
modem revolutionary tradition, is now presented as "a record
of the failure of absolute egalitarianism. "42 In the new
historiography, the Taipings are criticized for having alienated
landlords and intellectuals, for destroying traditional culture,
and for inhibiting economic development-and their defeat is
attributed to their "radical policies," which, it is said, were
"rooted in none other than the peasants' narrow-mindedness,
conservatism and backwardness. "43 Such defects as allegedly
39. For example, Sun Yuesheng, "On 'Exalting the Proletal;at and Eliminating
the Bourgeoisie,'" Dushu (Reading), 1981, No. I, pp. 6-17. (JPRS 77495,
pp. 28-32.) A more candid theoretician argues that Ih,~ CCP established
"feudalistic government-run enterprises" because "we did not understand that
socialism has highly-developed capitalist production as its prerequisite." Ying
and Sun, op. cit., p. 26.
40. As observed by Carl Riskin in his exceptionally perceptive analysis of
recent economic thought and policies. Carl Riskin, "Market, Maoism and
Economic Reform in China," in M. Selden and V. Lippit (eds.), The Transition
to Socialism in China (M.E. Sharpe, 1982), pp. 300-301.
41. Fang Wen and Li Zhenxia, "Thoroughly Eradicate the Influence of
Personality Cults," Hung-ch'i (Red Flag), 16 December 1980. (JPRS 77436,
42. Rong Sheng, "How Are We to Regard the Egalitarianism of the Taiping
Regime," Lishi Yanjiu (Historical Research), June 1981. 'JPRS 79194, p. 13).
43. Van Xiu, "Carrying Out Radical Policies was an Important Reason for
the Failure of the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace," Fudan Xuebao, January
1981. (JPRS 78321, pp. 47-55).
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characterized the peasantry in the mid-19th century linger into
the present. Indeed, in much of the recent litrature the peasantry
is viewed as the social carrier of "feudalistic" ideas arid
"petty-bourgeois ideology," which, it is alleged, lie at the root
of the pernicious "ultra-leftist" current which manifested itself
during the Great Leap Forward campaign and found its political
expression in the "feudal-fascist" rule of Lin Piao and the Gang
of Four.
regarded as the major barrier to modernization and thus to the
development of socialism-is essentially an ideological
problem, the agreed-upon solution is essentially economic. To
be sure, educational efforts to "emancipate the mind" are
necessary, but the ultimate remedy, it is stressed, is "the growth
of productive forces'.' and the consequent rise in the cultural
level of the populace.'s "The ghost of feudal consciousness,"
it is proclaimed, "will in the end be disposed of by the
thundering guns of modernization."46 But modernization is of
course a lengthy process. And thus the arrival of the good
society must await its consummation.
Industrialization, originally conceived as the
means to attain socialist ends, soon acquires a
dynamic of its own and, indeed, tends to become
an end in itself. And while the means and values
of modern economic development are lasting, the
goals of socialism are relegated to an increasingly
vague and indefinite future, and eventually
degenerate into ritualized ideological slogans
invoked to spur production and to provide a
spurious political legitimacy.
4. The Stages of Socialism
China, contemporary Chinese Marxist theory claims, is a
socialist society, and not merely a society in the process of
"the transition to socialism." The claim rests on what is taken
to be the defining features of socialism: first, a system of public
ownership of the means of production, said to have been
essentially accomplished by 1956; and secondly, the principle
of "distribution according to work." (There is no need to pause
here to discuss the adequacy of this definition of socialism or
its meaning in social practice.) Yet while China is socialist, it
is acknowledged that it is a socialism of what is termed a "low"
or "undeveloped" character. "Although we have established
socialist public ownership," it is typically said, "we still have
a long way to go to establish a socialist society as described
by Marx .... we remain in a stage of socialism not yet well
developed. . . . "47 Socialism, it is emphasized, is not single
stage in historical development but rather a process which
proceeds through many stages, each of which is tied to, and
essentially determined by, the level of economic development.
Moreover, the procession through the various stages of
socialism is of indeterminate historical length, and the time of
the consummation of the process cannot be predicted in
advance: "As to how long this period will last, we are not
fortune tellers so we cannot guess. But owing to the
backwardness of production in our country, it will undoubtedly
be a very, very long period divided into numerous stages."'8
There is of course nothing particularly novel about the
view that socialism passes through various stages of develop­
ment. The notion is present in original Marxist theory and,
indeed, in the thought of Mao Tse-tung, who also spoke of the
"stages" of development in postrevolutionary society. What is
noteworthy about the post-Maoist view of "the stages of
socialism" is that the process is conceived in essentially
characterized the peasantry is viewed as the social carrier of
"feudalistic" ideas and "petty-bourgeois ideology," which, it
is alleged, lie at the root of the pernicious "ultra-leftist" current
which manifested itself during the Great Leap Forward
campaign and found its political expression in the "feudal­
fascist" rule of Lin Piao and the Gang of Four.
It is thus that the responsibility for the evils of the recent
past and the problems of the present are shifted from the
eminently urban-oriented leaders in Peking to the lingering
"feudal remnants" of China's historic past, with the peasantry
implicitly bearing the blame as the social source of backward
ideas and ideologies. As a leading Marxist theoretician
remarked: "Our country is dominated by small producers who
are accustomed to obey imperial paternalism and who cherish
the dream of absolute equality. It will take a long time to
change them....... If the peasants, or many of them, have
benefited from the economic policies of the post-Mao regime,
they have not fared nearly so well in the regime's ideology.
The stress on the survival of the evils of the past, and the
emphasis on the need to overcome the burdens of the traditional
heritage, is a way to deny that the problems which beset Chinese
society may be contradictions inherent in the new society itself
rather than remnants inherited from the millennia. It is perhaps
instructive to recall that the enormous emphasis in Soviet
ideology on the need to overcome the old Tsarist historical
heritage long served as a means to ignore the contradictions
of the new social order produced by the revolution.
If the persistence of "feudal consciousness" -which is
"Di"u"ion,:'ln,titutc or Polili,al E,onomy. Chinc,.: Acadcmy or Social
Science'. Shanghai. I~ .llIl~ IYXO.
45. Li and Lin, "Tentative Discussion on the Struggle Against Vestiges of
Feudalism:' p. 30. The enormous weight given to "feudal consciousness"
stands in striking contrast to the strongly economically deterministic character
of post-Maoist Chinese Marxist theory in general. This tension, or perhaps
contradiction, will not easily be alleviated.
46. "On the Ideology of Feudalism," p. 16.
47. Su Shaozhi, "On the Principal Contradiction Facing Our Society Today,"
Xueshu Yuekllll (Academic Monthly). June 1979. (JPRS 74813, p. 14.) As
put by another leading theoretician: "In the underdeveloped socialist stage,
agricultural productivity remains low. ownership forms remain varied, and
commodity production remains a fact. The system of distribution according
to work does not function in the same way Marx prophesized because
productivity ... is still underdeveloped." "Discussions:' Institute of
Economics, Nankai University. Tianjin, 28 June 1980.
~g. Sun Shuping. "Tentaive Discussion or Basic Contradictions in a Socialist
Society:' XUl'S/111 Yul'kall (Academic Monthly). July 1977. (JPRS 74450. p. 7.)
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial
use only.
evolutionary terms, as a gradual and peaceful social progression
from lower to higher stages, with each stage reflecting the
growth of the productive forces. 49 For Mao Tse-tung, by
contrast, the whole process of development-from the
transition to socialism to and through the realization of a
communist utopia-was characterized by a continuous series
of radical revolutionary ruptures with the past, by qualitative
breaks with existing reality, and by changes in social relations
and popular consciousness proceeding as rapidly as possible
with, as Mao put it, "one revolution following another . . .
without interruption. "SO
Whereas for Mao the socialist transformation of social
relationships, forms of political organization, and especially the
consciousness of the masses was more the precondition for
modem economic development than its product, Mao's
ideological successors believe that the development of material
productive forces is the essential prerequisite for social and
intellectual change. Whereas Mao viewed "the stages of
socialism" as a continuous process of revolutionary transforma­
tion, in which social contradictions and struggles would
constitute the motive force of historical change, his successors
look to a long-term and gradual process of evolutionary change,
characterized by a relatively peaceful and socially harmonious
course of economic and social development. These differences
between the Maoist and post-Maoist versions of Chinese
Marxism are particularly apparent in the treatment of the
question of class struggle, an issue of enormous practical as
well as theoretical significance.
In striking contrast to the Maoist emphasis on social
contradictions and class struggles as the necessary motive force
of sociohistorical development, the evolutionary conception of
the "stages of socialism" presented in post-Maoist ideology
implies social harmony. It is thus hardly surprising that the
Maoist doctrine of the continuance of class struggle in a
socialist society has been condemned as erroneous in theory
and harmful in practice. 51 It is acknowledged, to be sure, that
certain social class differences remain and that a form of class
struggle must still be waged-for it would otherwise be
theoretically impossible to justify the continued existence of
"the dictatorship of the proletariat" - but class struggle is now
directed against what are termed "the remnants" of the old
exploiting classes, their ideological residues, and "a handful
of counterrevolutionaries." The exploiting classes themselves
have been abolished, it is maintained, and under a "socialist
system of public ownership of the means of production" it is
impossible either for the old exploiting classes to reconstitute
themselves or for new exploiting classes to emerge. 52 "Facts
tell us," it is argued, "that the development of socialism has
already passed through one stage and is currently in a second
stage-the stage of two different kinds of public ownership
of the means of production in which class and class struggle
no longer persists. "53
Thus the principal contradiction in Chinese society is no
longer between antagonistic social classes but rather between
the productive forces, which are relatively backward, and the
relations of production, which are presumably socialist in
character and therefore relatively advanced. And thus the
obvious solution for the contradiction is to direct all energies
to the building of a modem industrial economy. As the matter
is typically formulated:
Inasmuch as a fundamental transformation occurs in the
class relationships of a socialist society, the principal
contradiction in a socialist society is no longer between
the proletariat and the bourgeoisie but rather the
contradiction that socialist production is far from capable
of satisfying the needs of society. If this contradiction is
to be resolved, the priority must be to accelerate socialist
construction and rapidly bring about the Four Moderniza­
tions. A look back at the previous period shows that
because of confusion in demarcating the period of the
transition [to socialism] and socialism itself, class
struggle was seen as the paramount contradiction and the
major efforts were devoted to political movements,
which obstructed the shift to the emphasis on production
and resulted in lost opportunities for socialist construc­
tion. We are determined not to follow this same old
disastrous road again. 54
All other social contradictions are of a secondary and
nonantagonistic character, and can be resolved, it. is confidently
assumed, peacefully and gradually in accordance with the
development of the productive forces.
It is of some interest to observe that post-Maoist theoreti­
cians have devoted considerable energies to distinguishing
between a "socialist" society and a society "in transition to
socialism," affirming (at rather great length) that the former is
the correct characterization of the People's Republic. The dis­
tinction may appear a bit scholastic, but it is in fact of
considerable political and ideological import. For the notion
of "the transition to socialism" is identified with the Maoist
theories of "permanent revolution" and the continuation of class
struggle. Thus, as emphasized in a major article in Red Flag:
"It must be noted that the theory that it is still necessary to
carry on 'uninterrupted revolution' after our country has entered
the socialist (stage) ... is in fact a theory which negates the
socialist nature of our present-day society. "55 Or, to put the
49. The envisioned process of post-revolutionary development is sometimes
labeled "revolutionary reformism," in contrast to Maoist notions of "continuous
revolution" and class struggle. With the establishment of a socialist system,
it is argued, "it is no longer necesary ... to basically remold the superstructure
and economic base, as fallaciously advocated in the 'continuous revolution'
theory .... We can only gradually improve and progress, and reach our goal
at a relatively slow speed over a long period of time." The concept of
"revolutionary reformism," it is claimed, is derived from Lenin and especially
Stalin, who favored gradualism and opposed "eruptions." (See Xue Hanwei
and Fan Guohua, "On Revolutionary Reformism," Xueuxi yu Tansuo (Study
and Exploration), 1981, No.6, pp. 4-9. (JPRS 80792, pp. 93-101.)
50. Mao Tse-tung, "Speech to the Supreme State Conference," 28 January
1958, Chinese Law and Government. 1.4:10-14.
51. Wang Ruisun, Song Yangyan and Qin Yanshi, "A Chat About the Nature
and Characteristics of a Socialist Society," Jingji Yanjiu (Economic Research),
10 (1979). (JPRS 84866:2.)
52. Jin Wen, "On Current Classes and Class Struggle." Jiejllllg Ribao
(Liberation Daily). :!3 July 11J71J (JPRS 7~33~:~-5.)
53. Sun, "Tentative Discussion of Basic Contradictions." p. 9.
54. Wang. et aI., "A Chat About the Nature and Characteristics of a Socialist
Society," p.ll.
55. Duan Ruofei. "The Scientific Theory of Socialism and the Reality of
Socialism in China," Red Flag (16 March 1982). pp. 21-~,1. (JPRS 80980.
pp. 36-53.)
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matter more precisely, the new orthodoxy (which has generated
an enormous body of literature) that China is firmly and forever
socialist serves to negate the notion of uninterrupted revolution
and the necessity of class struggle.
The post-Maoist deemphasis on class struggle (while
politically salutary in some respects) does more than simply
lend support to an evolutionary conception of "the stages of
socialism" which gradually unfold over a long historical era.
It also serves as a way to mask the social contradictions of the
present. One such contradiction-and one which loomed large
in Maoist ideology-is the gap between town and countryside,
and the resulting conflict of interests between workers and
peasants. But that quite real social contradiction is largely
ignored in a post-Maoist Chinese Marxist ideology which
confines class struggle to a skirmish against "remnants" of the
old exploiting classes and which propounds the new orthodoxy
that there is "no basic conflict of interests among the people. "~6
The abolition of the distinction between town and countryside
is, of course, still proclaimed as an ultimate goal, but its
realization is postponed to a time when the growth of the
productive forces has sufficiently ripened. And since social
change can only follow in the wake of economic development,
as is repeatedly emphasized, the goal of abolishing the
distinctions between the urban and rural areas is severed from
the social practice of the present, relegated to an unspecified
time in the future, and safely ritualized.
A second, and perhaps more fundamental, socioeconomic
contradiction which the present deemphasis on class struggle
serves to mask is the conflict between rulers and ruled. In a
society where private property and private ownership of the
means of production largely have been abolished, and where
the state has become the de facto economic manager of society,
the principal social contradiction clearly is no longer primarily
economic in nature but rather political, between those who
hold political power in the state apparatus and those who do
not; it is, in essence, the distinction between the rulers and the
ruled. Mao early recognized this elemental fact, emphasizing
in 1957 the contradiction between the "leadership and the
led. "~7 And from there he was driven inexorably to the
conclusion that China's political and economic bureaucrats
were becoming a new exploiting class, "bourgeois elements
sucking the blood of the workers," he charged in 1965.'8 In
effect, they were a functional (albeit propertyless) bourgeoisie
able to exploit society and appropriate much of the fruits of
social labor by virtue of the political power they wielded. There
are many ambiguities in the Maoist treatment of class,'9 but it
is reasonably clear-and it is certainly clear enough to post-Maoist
ideologists and politicians-that when Mao and Maoists spoke
of class struggle between "the bourgeoisie and the proletariat,"
at least in the late Maoist era, the term "bourgeoisie" referred
not to lingering remnants of an old and expropriated capitalist
56. Wu Jiang, "Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People is a
General Subject," Hung·ch' i (Red Flag), 2 (February 1979). (JPRS 73304:4.)
57. Mao Tse-tung, On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the
People (Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1957), p. 49.
58. Mao Tse-tung,"Comment on Comrade Ch'en Cheng-jen's Stay in a
Primary Unit" (29 January 1965). (JPRS 49826:23.)
59. As perceptively analyzed by Richard Kraus in Class Conflict in Chinese
Socialism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981).
class but rather to those who occupied positions of privilege
and authority in the post-revolutionary political and economic
bureaucracies, and particularly in the higher echelons of the
Chinese Communist Party. The proposition that bureaucrats
can constitute themselves as a new ruling class, a notion
remarkably similar to Milovan DjiJas' theory of "the new
class," received abundant Maoist theoretical elaboration during
the Cultural Revolution era. 60
The Maoist theory of a bureaucratic ruling class has of
course now vanished from Chinese Marxist writings, for it is
obviously a notion profoundly unsettling to those in power and
not one conducive to an ideology which insists on a diminishing
role for class struggle in the development of a presumably
socialist society. The official position was laid down by Teng
Hsiao-p'ing in December 1980. "There is absolutely not, nor
could there ever be a 'class of bureaucrats.' Our propaganda
work should guard against creating various images among the
masses that do not square with reality,"61 Teng decreed as he
was suppressing the last of the Democracy Movement activists,
some of whom had revived the theory of a privileged bureau­
cratic ruling class. Teng's decree subsequently was elaborated
at great length by official theoreticians. It is acknowledged, to
be sure, that bureaucracy and bureaucratism remain problems
in Chinese society, problems which are variously attributed to
economic and cultural backwardness, the vestiges offeudalism,
and the persistence of a "small producers' mentality." But the
theory of a new bureaucratic class, with interests fundamentally
opposed to the interests of the masses, is a matter now beyond
the pale of acceptable political discussion. In its place has come
the orthodox dogma that it is impossible for a new exploiting
class to emerge in a society which has established a system of
"public ownership" of the means of production. It is thus that
the radical deemphasis on class struggle serves to obscure the
social contradictions generated by the post-revolutionary order
itself and instead directs attention to the problems inherited
from the past, particularly the heritage of economic backward­
An evolutionary conception of "the stages of socialism,"
combined with the doctrine of the increasing diminution of
class struggle, is an ideology which serves to support and
rationalize the social status quo. Since it is assumed that social
development must follow and reflect economic development­
and since China is economically impoverished-it is an
ideology that conveys the message that little or no social change
can be anticipated in the foreseeable future. It is also an
ideology which serves to dampen utopian hopes since it
counsels that what people are able to achieve is bound to (and
limited by) the stage of social development in which they find
themselves, a stage which is determined, in turn, by the level
of development of the productive forces. Thus the striving for
socialist and communist goals is largely removed from the
realm of human desires and volition and entrusted to the
impersonal forces and "objective laws" of economic develop­
60. One of the more extensive theoretical discussions of the thesis appeared
shortly before Mao's death in a treatise published under the acronym "Ma
Yen-wen." See "The Bureaucratic Class and the Dictatorship of the
Proletariat." Pei-ching ta-hsueh hsueh-pao (Peking University Journal) 4
61. FBIS Daily Report, 4 May 1981, p. W8.
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5. Socialism and Modernization
The overwhelming emphasis on building the economic
foundations for socialism in post-Maoist Chinese Marxist
theory provides-and is of course intended to provide­
ideological support for the policy of "the Four Modernizations"
pursued by Mao Tse-tung's successors. In contrast to Maoism,
contemporary Chinese Marxism gives primacy to productive
forces over productive relations, and assumes that economic
development rather than class struggle is the motor of historical
change. By thereby subordinating the transformation of social
relationships to the development of the forces of production,
post-Maoist theory serves to postpone the arrival of the
communist utopia prophesied in Marxist theory to an
unspecified time in the future, to a time when the level of
economic development is sufficiently high to support further
social change. The guiding theoretical notion which justifies
the postponement is essentially the old Soviet assumption
(which the Chinese embraced in the early 1950s and which
Mao Tse-tung abandoned in the late 1950s) that "public owner­
ship" of the means of production combined with the rapid
development of modern productive forces will more or less
automatically produce a communist utopia.
While the economic results of the pursuit of the Four
Modernizations remain to be seen, the social results are quite
predictable-and it safely can be predicted that they will move
China further away from, rather than closer to, the socialist
goals which modernization presumably is intended to serve. It
is above all a policy which will tend to increase and
institutionalize socioeconomic inequalities in a society which
already suffers from enormous and glaring inequality.
Socialism, by Marxist definition, does of course presup­
pose inequality. If the social product is to be distributed in
accordance with the principle of "to each according to one's
work," inequality necessarily will result for the simple reason
that people are unequally endowed and their labor contributions
will thus be uneven. But it is assumed in Marxist theory that
the process of building socialism demands progressive
reductions in social and economic inequalities.
Yet even the most cursory review of post-Maoist economic
policies and ideological tendencies reveals an almost wholesale
repudiation of egalitarian Maoist practices in favor of policies
which mayor may not produce a more rapid rate of economic
growth but which will clearly produce greater social inequities.
Growing wage differentials accompanied by a renewed stress
on material incentives, piece-rate wages, and bonus payments
obviously will increase economic differences among the urban
working class. Strengthening the authority of factory managers
and technological personnel, the borrowing of managerial
methods from capitalist countries, and stringent demands for
"labor discipline" can only widen the gap between managers
and workers in factories. Higher wages and status for the
technological intelligentsia, ideologically rationalized by the
revival of the formula that "intellectuals are part of the working
class," may yield short-term economic benefits but will cer­
tainly have the long-term result of promoting the stratification
of bureaucratic and intellectual elites increasingly separated
from the masses of workers and peasants. The adoption of
profit-making criteria for the operation of economic enterprises
is likely to increase already enormous regional economic
differences. Agricultural policies which deemphasize collective
work in favor of individual family farming and market relations
will surely result in greater socioeconomic inequality in the
countryside. Finally, the abandonment of Maoist educational
reforms in favor of the system which existed in the 1950s will
promote and reinforce social differentiations in general. The
educational system is of course a powerful force for fostering
equality-or inequality-in any society, but particularly so in
one where private ownership of the means of production has
been abolished and where social status is based on income and
function rather than property. The reintroduction of standard­
ized examinations for admission to secondary schools and
universities, the revival of traditional teaching methods and
performance criteria, and the reopening of special schools for
unusually talented youth are measures which obviously favor
the children of bureaucrats and intellectuals over children from
working class families, and favor urban over rural inhabitants.
These policies, which proceed under the slogans of "the
Four Modernizations," and "socialist modernization," are
logically accompanied by increasingly strident condemnations
of what is called "the fallacy of egalitarianism," an ideological
drive reminiscent of Stalin's infamous campaigns against
egalitarian strivings, which the old Soviet dictator once
denounced as worthy only of "a primitive sect of ascetic
monks." And the policies and ideology of Mao's successors
are likely to yield social results similar to those brought about
by their Soviet counterparts. If the degree of socioeconomic
equality is one standard to measure whether a society is
socialist, or one moving in a socialist direction, then it would
seem that there is little socialist in the much-heralded program
of "socialist modernization."
"If a socialist society does not promote socially collectiv­
istic aims, then what of socialism still remains?" Mao Tse-tung
once asked. 62 It is not a question that his political and
ideological successors seem inclined to ponder.
An economically deterministic interpretation of Marxism
which subordinates all to the over-riding task of developing
productive forces in the most rapid possible fashion is not a
version of Marxism conducive to confronting the dilemma of
the means and ends of socialism. Whereas Maoism, in the
Maoist era, was distinguished by its concern with reconciling
the means of modern economic development with the ends of
socialism, this concern is glaringly absent in the post-Maoist
version of "Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought." The
revised doctrine rests on a faith that modern technology is a
universal panacea for all the ills and contradictions which afflict
society. In the process, the means of economic development
tend increasingly to be converted into final ends. Indeed, one
of the more curious features of the current Chinese Marxist
mentality is a proclivity to define socialism almost exclusively
in terms of economic productivity. "The aim of the socialist
revolution is to emancipate the productive forces," the Party
theoretical journal Red Flag announced at the time of the
inauguration of the policy of "the Four Modernizations."" "The
ultimate goal of all our revolutionary struggle is to liberate and
develop socialist economic construction to raise the material
standards of all the people," it is typically stated in the most
prominent Marxist periodicals.64 And high Party officials
62. Mao, "Reading Notes on the Soviet Union's 'Political Economy,'" p.197.
63. Hung·ch'i (Red Hag) I (January 1977).
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use only.
repeatedly declare that "the aim of our Party in leading the
whole nation in making revolution and taking over political
power is, in the final analysis, to develop the economy."6.5
The writings and speeches where such statements appear
are remarkably unconcerned with the presumably Marxian
socialist and communist goals of the revolution, save in the
most ritualistic and passing fashion. "Socialism" is virtually
equated with modernization and the rapid development of the
productive forces. Indeed, it is often suggested that a socialist
society is to be evaluated by its productive achievements. As
China's leading economic journal rhetorically queries: "If the
development of the socialist economy is permanently slower
than that of the capitalist economy, where is the manifestation
of the superiority of socialism?"66 It might also be asked that
if the aim of socialism is to "develop the productive forces,"
then wherein lies the difference between socialism and
China's present political and ideological leaders believe
that they are pursuing a path to an inevitable socialist and
communist future, and there is no reason to doubt the sincerity
of the belief. But one well might ask whether the means they
are employing are consistent with the ends they proclaim to
An economistic doctrine which subordinates social and
ideological considerations to the task of building modern
productive forces-and assumes that the desired social results
will naturally flow from a developed economy-is a doctrine
that not only ignores the dilemma of reconciling the means of
modem industrialism with the goals of socialism, but also one
which neglects the question of the nature of the human beings
who presumably will construct the envisioned new society. It
is most unlikely that a people schooled in the ideology and
practice of "the Four Modernizations" will emerge from the
process with socialist values and ideals-and the latter are no
less necessary preconditions for socialism than its assumed
material prerequisites. But the post-Maoist version of Chinese
Marxist theory propogates the idea that one need only rely on
the "vigorous development of productive forces and the gradual
elevation of material life" to bring about a "gradual elevation
of the socialist consciousness of the people. "61 It is a faith
similar to, if not borrowed from, the longstanding Soviet
ideological orthodoxy that raising the material standard of life
will itself produce a popular socialist consciousness. And there
64. ''The Great Transition and the Important Themes of Historical Mate­
rialism," Che-hsueh yen-chiu (Philosophic Research) 2 (February 1979). (JPRS
65. Half Guang, "On the Development of Modem Industry," Beijing Review,
23 March 1979, p. 9.
66. Xue, "Study and Apply the Objective Laws of Socialist Economic
Development," p. 7.
Recent writings emphasize that the superiority of socialism is demonstrated
not by the level of economic development but rather by the rate of increase
as compared to capitalist economies. See, for example, Wu Shuqing in Jingji
Yanjiu (20 December 1981). It is interesting to note that the recent literature,
in contrast to that of the years 1978-80, tends to celebrate the economic
accomplishments of the Maoist era (including, in some cases, the Cultural
Revolution decade)-in part, to demonstrate the superiority of socialism and,
in part, to counter arguments that China's level of economic development is
too low to support a socialist society.
67. Sun, "Tentative Discussion of Basic Contradictions in a Socialist Society,"
p. 10
is little reason to believe that the assumption, and the policies
it rationalizes, will yield more salutary social results in China
than it has in Russia.
By a deterministic reading of Marx's proposition that
"being determines consciousness," with "being" often narrowly
interpreted as the level of economic development, contempo­
rary Chinese Marxists present a mechanistic version of Marxist
theory which distorts the writings of Marx as well as abandons
the teachings of Mao. Marx, for one, did not assume that
socialism was simply the product of modern economic develop­
ment, or even, for that matter, the transformation of social
relationships. No less important was the socialist transformation
of human beings through what Marx called "revolutionizing
practice," whereby people would change themselves in the
course of changing their social world. "The materialist doctrine
that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and
that therefore changed men are the product of other cir­
cumstances and changed upbringing," Marx wrote, "forgets
that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator
must himself be educated .... The coincidence of the changing
of circumstances and human activity can be conceived and
rationally understood only as revolutionizing practice."68 For
Marx the new society presupposed, among other preconditions,
the emergence of "new men."
Mao Tse-tung was very much in accord with this strand
in the Marxist tradition (however much he may have departed
from Marxism in other areas) in his repeated insistence. on the
importance of "remolding people."69 And Mao shared with
Martin Buber the "utopian" belief that the achievement of
socialism "depends not on the technological state of things"
but rather "on people and their spirit. "10 In the post-Maoist
version of Chinese Marxism, however, it is precisely "the
technological state of things" that is taken as decisive. And
while the appropriate technological state is being built, the
socialist and communist goals which modern technology pre­
sumably is to serve are postponed to an ever more remote
future, and tend to become empty rituals increasingly divorced
from social reality and political practice.
"History," Karl Marx wrote, "is nothing but the activity
of men in pursuit of their ends. "1) What ends do Chinese
Communists pursue in the post-Maoist era of the People's
Republic? They claim to seek the communist utopia prophesied
in Marxist theory, but they propagate a version of Marxism
which relegates that utopia to an historical time so far in the
future that it no longer bears any imaginable relationship to
the present. Official post-Maoist Chinese Marxism is an ideol­
ogy which sets forth a gradual and evolutionary scheme of
social development governed by impersonal and objective
economic and historical laws, and thus one which provides
little place for human will, wishes, and consciousness in the
68. Karl Marx, "Theses on Feuerbach," Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
Collected Works (New York: International Publishers. 1976). vol. 5. p. 7.
69. In Soviet ideology. Mao observed. "the emphasis is on the role played
by machines in socialist transformation. However. if we do not raise the
consciousness of the peasants and remold the ideology of man. how is it
possible to rely on machines alone?" "Reading Notes on the Soviet Union's
'Political Economy ...• p. 336.
70. Martin Buber. Paths in Utopia (Boston: Beacon Press. 1958). pp. 46-47.
71. Karl Marx. Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, T. B.
Bottomore and Maxmilian Rubel. eds. (London: Watts, 1956), p. 63.
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial
use only.
making of history. It is an ideology whose authors are preoccu­
pied more with the burdens of the past than with visions of the
future, who dwell more on the limitations imposed by historical
reality than on the potentialities history offers. To be sure, it
is an ideology which assumes that "modernization" eventually
will produce communism, but also one which counsels that
people can do little in the here and now to bring about the
good society of the future, save to construct its economic
foundations. Post-Maoist Chinese Marxism, in essence, is
primarily an ideology of modem economic development which
promises, at least for the foreseeable future, no more than a
slowly improving material standard of life.
If Chinese Marxist theoreticians have purged Maoism of
its utopian elements, Chinese Communist political leaders have
shorn socialism of its socialist meaning. "The purpose of
socialism," Teng Hsiao-p'ing says, "is to make the country
rich and strong."72 That, of course, has been the purpose of
Chinese modernizers and nationalists of all political and
ideological persuasions for the past century-and indeed is the
aim of nationalist leaders of all modem nations. While the goal
of making the country "rich and strong" may satisfy Chinese
nationalist impulses, it is not likely to inspire socially utopian
aspirations. Nor are many likely to be moved to strive for
Marxian ends when Chinese Communist leaders repeatedly
insist that the basic principle of the doctrine is the vapid truism
that "practice is the sole criterion of truth."
The official press complains that China suffers from "a
crisis of faith in Marxism. "13 And a foreign journalist observes
that "the idealism, the drive, the almost religious fervor that
marked Communism's early years and lasted until the Cultural
Revolution have largely vanished."" And well might there be
a "crisis of faith" and a vanishing of idealism when Marxism
is reduced to an ideology of modernization, when the essence
of the doctrine is redefined by the banal injunction "to seek
truth from facts," when Marxist goals are ritualized by being
put off to a remote future, and when socialism itself is virtually
equated with modem economic development.
Revolutions die not from failures to achieve utopian
dreams, but when the goals, if not entirely forgotten, are lodged
in a future so distant that they are severed from what is
foreseeably possible and removed from the realm of what can
be striven for in the here and now. It is precisely that function
which is performed by the profoundly antiutopian and
economically deterministic character of official Chinese
Marxism in the post-Maoist era.
In pondering the fate of the Chinese Revolution in a
conversation with an American writer in the mid-1960s, Mao
Tse-tung wondered: "Is Communism only the piling of brick
on brick? Is there no work to be done with man?"15 Mao's
successors are busily at work piling bricks, and no doubt they
will eventually construct a huge edifice. But it seems doubtful
72. In remarks made to a visiting Rumanian delegation in November 1980.
New York Times, 30 December 1980, p. 2.
73. Guo Luoji, "Commenting on the So-called 'Confidence Crisis,'" Shanghai
Wen Hui Bao. 13 January 1980. (FBIS, 30 January 1980, pp. 9-11.)
74. Fox Butterfield, "Apathy Replaces Idealism among Chinese," New York
Times. 30 December 1980, p. 1.
75. Anna Louise Strong, transcript of "Talk with Mao," 17 January 1964.
Anna Louise Strong papers, Peking Municipal Library.
that there will be anything socialist or communist about the
structure and its inhabitants.
If the official Marxist doctrine of the post-Maoist regime
holds little socialist potential, then what of the Marxism of the
intelligentsia? Here one finds much that is positive and hopeful
for the development of critical and radical socialist perspectives
-especially the search for democratic socialist strains in the
Marxist tradition, the interest in "the young Marx," and the
revival (albeit largely abortive) of Marx's theory of alienation.
In these respects, some recent Chinese Marxist writings bear
striking similarities with the flourishing of democratic socialist
thought among East European Marxist intellectuals in the
post-Stalin period. Yet in comparing contemporary Chinese
Marxism with Eastern European Marxian revitalization move­
ments, one striking difference is immediately apparent-and
it suggests that the Marxism of the Chinese intelligentsia may
prove of limited political significance. Eastern European
Marxist intellectuals who sought to revive the democratic and
humanist strains in the Marxist tradition were centrally con­
cerned with the relevance of Marxism for political action, and
with the political role of the proletariat. These concerns found
expression in the various alliances between workers and
intellectuals that characterized the most important upheavals
against Stalinist and neo-Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe.
Such worker-intellectual alliances were crucial in the Hungarian
revolt of 1956, in Czechoslovakia in 1968, in the Polish up­
rising of 1970, and more recently in the Solidarity movement.
(In the case of the latter, most Western press accounts have
gravely underestimated, if not entirely ignored, the role of
Marxist intellectuals organized in KOR, in favor ofemphasizing
the role of the Catholic Church. While the Polish Church, with
the blessings of the Papacy, has arrived at an accommodation
with the State in time-honored fashion, many of the Marxist
intellectuals of KOR languish in Polish jails.)
In the recent writings of Chinese Marxist intellectuals, in
contrast to their Eastern European counterparts, neither
political action nor the proletariat emerge as prominent con­
cerns. The possibilities of a Chinese worker-intellectual
alliance appear rather dim-not only because of objective
political circumstances but also because of the subjective
political and intellectual limitations of China's intellectuals.
The Democracy Movement of 1978-80 was led mostly by youthful
and self-educated former Red Guards, and drew such social
support as it acquired from a small minority of younger
workers. Intellectuals, or at least members of the established
intelligentsia, were conspicuous by their absence-and their
silence. While contemporary Marxist intellectuals are intellec­
tually radical in some cases, they are politically passive in
virtually all cases. The leaders of the Chinese state have been
far quicker to recognize (and act against) the potentially radical
political implications of intellectual interest in "the young
Marx," and especially the theory of alienation, than intellectuals
have been to act upon those potentialities. In view of their
bitter experiences from the Hundred Flowers campaign through
the Cultural Revolution, it is of course understandable that
intellectuals should look upon political involvement as futile
and with a sense of foreboding. But this does not bode well
for prospects of any future process of democratic evolution and
socialist revitalization in the People's Republic.
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial
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Shimizu Ikko's "Silver Sanctuary" (Gin no seiiki): A Japanese Business Novel translated and with an introduction by Tamae K. Prindle
"I want to describe lots of people who are directly involved
in business," says Shimizu Ikko.' Shimizu Ikko (1931)is
the pioneer of Japanese "business novels" (kigyo shOsetsu) and
one of the most prolific and popular novelists today. Born in
Tokyo, Shimizu attended Waseda University and was active
as a freelance writer contributing articles to weekly magazines
until he was recognized as a novelist. His An Artery
Archipelago (Domyaku retto) was awarded the 28th Japanese
Detective Story Writers Association Prize in 1975.
As Shimizu notes, the business novel is "young"; they
have only been in the Japanese market since the mid-1960s.
The mainstay of these novels is their "immediacy to the
business world." Because the novelist's artistry in fictionalizing
socio-economic data makes it appealing and approachable,
novels are informative and expressive at the same time,
qualities which even professional economists find quite
creditable. And the immense popularity of business novels also
speaks for their socio-cultural significance.
Shimizu's short story "Silver Sanctuary" (Gin no seiiki)
first appeared in the monthly magazine All Reading (Oru
yomimono) in January 1969. The story begins with the
discovery of an infraction of confidentiality in the administra­
tion of three "confidential long-term savings accounts," a type
of account unfamiliar to most Westerners. This is a system
whereby a client opens a long-term savings account under a
pseudonym. His real name and address are known by a very
limited number of bank employees. Later transactions on this
account will be carried out by means of a registered stamp
(inkanY bearing the client's pseudonym. It is a technical
aberration Shimizu takes special interest in. The story outlines,
among other things, the process of training a bank's staff, and
brings to light the bank's difficult interpersonal relationships
as well as its competition with other banks. We learn of the
existence of two career paths: vertical and relatively horizontal.
Only executives-in-training have the privilege of rising in rank.
Hence, personnel rotation brings about psychological tension
among employees, who, in a sense, are like machinery operated
by the institution. They are requested to work under the basic
principle that "A banker must be trustworthy, almost
impartially serious, and at the same time, must not have any
personality." Women, in particular, are underdogs. The tragic
heroine's name Yoko (meaning a person who "serves," who
is "constant" and even "stupid") symbolizes women's status.
And in fact, Yoko becomes persona non grata and even a
criminal, after offering everything a woman can to Tagawa,
Saeki and a number of other men.
Feudalism, sexism-many such objections may be raised
after a reading of "Silver Sanctuary." Nevertheless, it must be
pointed out that business novels project socio-economic reality
in Japan and present it in an easily graspable format.
I. My interview with Mr. Ikko Shimizu in January 1985. This translation was
made of "Gin no seiiki" as it appeared in Churenpoton [Nine Consecutive
Jewel Towers) (Tokyo: Kodansha bunko. 1984), pp. 5-46. I am grateful to
Mr. Shimizu, Dr. Brett de Bary. Mr. Chris Stevens and Dr. Peter Prindle for
their assistance.
2. lnkan is a stick usually made of wood, bamboo, ivory or crystal. A name
is carved on one end. By pressing onto a pad of thick ink (which is usually
red), the stamp may be used any number of times. Japanese use stamps in
place of the Western signature, trusting that virtually no two stamps have an
identical carving on them.
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use only.
"Silver Sanctuary" (Gin no seiiki)
Exactly three months ago, Tagawa Junji was appointed
to be the Manager of the Nitto Bank N Branch Office. He was
the first to be nominated from his age group. The incident in
question took place just when his management of the bank was
beginning to run smoothly.
"Something is bothering me . . ." Assistant Manager
Nishiyama Kenji looked hesitantly at Tagawa, coming out of
a conference. "You must know Ikuno-shP of five-chome: an
engineer specializing in the installation of greenhouse heating
systems. He telephoned and asked me why the salesman from
Daido Bank across the street came to visit him."
"You mean ... , why he visited?" Tagawa repeated the
question like a parrot. Tagawa had paid a courtesy visit to
Ikuno's house once since becoming Manager. It was with
Nishiyama. If he remembered correctly, this client lived in an
old-fashioned pre-fabricated rusting steel frame house which
had been expanded by annexing a brick walled shed. Seem­
ingly,the owner of this ramshackle house without even a
business sign-board has been carefully saving every penny. In
the N Branch Office alone, he had a confidential long-term
savings account of 25 million yen. 5 Tagawa found it difficult
to put the person and the amount of his savings together.
"In other words, he is having a difficult time convincing
himself that there was no purpose to the salesman's visit. He
says that nobody other than our bank should know about his
25 million yen account . . . You remember his shanty, don't
you? The reason why he lives in that run-down house, he says,
is to get around unnecessary taxation. How did Daido Bank
find out about his savings? He is panic-stricken. He is afraid
that the tax bureau may trace back his actual income, now that
the Daido Bank has learned about it."
Tagawa smiled critically. He did not disapprove of the
penny-pincher mentality, but it made no sense to directly
connect the salesman's visit with the problem of taxation, and
to be frightened by the idea.
"It's not that Daido demanded a transfer of his 25 million
yen in our bank into theirs, is it?"
"Heaven forbid!"
"Then, there's nothing to worry about."
"The only thing is-although this may only be a
coincidence-Norisaka-san on K Street, where I dropped in
yesterday, had also been solicited by Daido Bank."
Norisaka on K Street owns a small grocery store. Although
the store is small, he used to be the largest landlord in the area
and has been a regular customer at the Nitto Bank N Branch
Office. His long-term savings account holds nearly 30 million
"I wonder what they are doing at Daido Bank, a memorial
savings raising campaign, or something of that sort?"
3. "-shi" is a title suffix, used at more formal situations than when "-san" may
be used. Its English equivalent would be "Mr."
4. ChOme is an area designation slightly different from a street name.
5. The historical context of this short story is not clear, but judging by the
housing condition and the geographical setting in the story, the period is likely
to be sometime before the international exchange rate of$l = Y 360 was altered.
Shimizu Ikkii
Through the thin lace curtains, Tagawa peered into the
two-storied white Daid6 Bank N Branch Office kitty-comer
across the narrow intersection in front of N Station.
Next-door to it was a Mutual Bank. 6 In all, there were
six branches of financial institutions in the neighborhood.
"Nothing that I know of."
"Well then, did they decide to steal our regular
If only one customer had been solicited, one could say
that it was just a coincidence. It would not have bothered
Tagawa. But with two private account clients having been
approached one after the other by the Daido Bank salesman,
a certain amount of caution was necessary.
N Station was located on a private railway network. It
was only thirty minutes away from Ikebukuro Station on the
National Railway Yamate Line. The daily number of
passengers on this private line was approximately twenty
thousand. The district had been attracting growing interest as
a newly developed residential area. New banks had mush­
roomed at a speed comparable to that of the regional develop­
ment itself. Now that the area was completely built up, as
many as six branch offices of banks flanked their eaves. They
competed bitterly against one another, trying to pick up more
Not simply for the sake of competition, but also because
no office could expect substantial savings from new home
owners. Salesmen who attempted to conscript opulent savers
had no choice but to take over long-committed clients from
other banks.
6. Traditionally, a Japanese Mutual Bank used the system of mutual financing,
wherein the members of the "bank" would pool in fund" and some of them
as selected by drawing. tin example. would have the privilege of borrowing
from it. Nowadays, Mutual Banks are more like short-term financiers.
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
The bank entrusted to Tagawa Junji was located in one
of the most competitive zones in Tokyo. Tagawa was con­
sidered a future spearhead of the bank. He was singled out to
be its Manager at the age of thirty-seven. Regardless of when
or where, the bank management, by nature, demanded a steady
climb in the amount of customers' deposits. Inasmuch as the
survival of branch offices depended on this, the offices could
not help but become sensitive to the activities of large deposit
"I hope that nothing serious is going on. For now, I'II go
talk with the two clients."
"That may help."
First a self-defence, next a counterattack! But the strategy
for the counterattack would develop only out of a knowledge
as to what the opponents knows, and what they are after.
Ikuno and Norisaka, the two clients Tagawa visited that
day, reprimanded Tagawa, claiming that the financial secret
of an individual should not be used as a means to promote a
bank's coming out on top in the overheated competition. They
demanded his assurance of the confidentiality of their accounts.
"Something is strange. The confidential deposits'list must
have been leaked from within Nitto Bank." Frowning
nervously, Ikuno kept after Tagawa. His expression looked
unbecoming to a man of his chubby physique.
"I swear, Sir, that there was no mistake."
"But, I still can't put faith in ..."
"It is the duty of a bank to keep the secrets of its clients."
Tagawa tightened his handsome face and spoke crisply. "May
I ask what the name ofthe salesman from Daido Bank was?"
"I think it was Saeki, or something like that."
Tagawa had seen a calling card at Norisaka's home where
he had visited before coming to see Ikuno. The name on it
read Saeki Kikuo. In Norisaka's description, he was a "smooth
and pale faced fellow." Tagawa decided to check up on Saeki
Kikuo as soon as possible.
But upon his return to the N Branch Office, he ran into
an emergency causing him to react much faster than he had
planned. Another large deposit holder, Aoki Tatsuo, was
waiting for his return in the Manager's office.
"What the hell is going on, Manager? This man came to
see me. What does this mean?" Baldheaded Aoki tossed a
calling card on a side table. As Tagawa stooped over to peer
at it, he saw again Saeki's name printed on it. Tagawa was
tempted to say, "Oh, he went to your house, too," but
swallowed his words at the last minute.
"I see, it's Daido Bank. Is this something new?" Tagawa
sat on the sofa, facing Aoki and questioned him calmly.
"He asked me to deposit some money." Aoki' s voice
mirrored his disappointment that his bravado had failed to
impress Tagawa. But he regained his feistiness right away; his
voice grew inflated.
"I tried to get rid of him. I told him that I had no money
to save. Then, what do you think? The guy with ridiculous-look­
ing glasses had the nerve to say, 'You have some money, don't
you, Sir?' He had a big grin on his face!"
"My God, he is forward!"
"He knew what he was doing, though. Listen. The man
said, 'You have 50 million yen in the confidential account at
Nitto Bank alone. Since it matures next month, won't you
kindly take advantage of our services and deposit just half of
it with us?' Can you imagine? Can you think of anything more
absurd than this?"
Tagawa caught his breath at Aoki's piercing words. Aoki
gained confidence to see Tagawa's reaction. He became coarse.
In a sarcastic, caustic tone, he attacked Tagawa, "I don't see
how my account with Nitto is known by people at Daido."
"I assure you that there's nothing like that."
"But in fact things are getting out of hand."
Tagawa feared that this mix-up might tum into a fatal
blow to his career. There couldn't be a leakage of the informa­
tion about confidential long-term savings accounts unless there
was inside sabotage.
"Say what you may, I can't trust you with my money. I
am withdrawing all my accounts here. This bank can not be
trusted," Aoki roared, banging on the armrest of the sofa, and
the arteries of his boar-like neck bulged grotesquely. To the
N Office, the 50 million yen was a significant amount. If the
total of this sum was recalled, the achievement record of the
office would suddenly go down.
"As you may know, the competition among banks is
vicious. It's exactly like the saying, 'a hundred devils marching
at night.' It is difficult to tell what kind of trap Daido has set
up against us. But it is, at least, unlikely that the information
has leaked from within. In any event, I shall investigate the
situation right away. Please kindly give us time to find out
what is really going on."
Tagawa could not afford to take the case lightly. He edged
forward on the sofa and tried his best to calm Aoki down. Just
then, he began feeling a strange anxiety. Rather than anxiety,
it may have been a gut feeling or a brainstorm that struck him.
An image momentarily loomed in the back of his brain, like
a shadow floating between dark waves. It disappeared and came
to the surface again, and again and again.
"Please give me a week. One week will do. I can rectify
the situation as soon as the cause is pinned down."
"What would you do, if you can't pin down the cause?"
"I will see to it that you will not be inconvenienced."
Tagawa bowed low.
"When the Manager is young, the management is bound
to fall apart." Aoki spoke spitefully, and added emphatically,
"I won't wait more than a week!"
After Aoki left, Tagawa pondered over the anxiety he had
just felt and thought about the shadow which had wafted
through the back of his brain. It was really a crazy idea, but
judging from her post, it was not totally improbable. If,
moreover, her personal resentment against Tagawa still
lingered, there could be a smell of revenge behind what was
Tagawa lifted the inter-com receiver and asked two
telephone switchboard operators, "Does the name Saeki Kikuo
ring a bell to you?"
"From where, Sir?"
"What I mean is, do either of you remember anybody
from our bank calling a person named Saeki, or Saeki calling
somebody here?"
The two operators whispered to each other. Holding the
receiver, Tagawa had the distasteful premonition that the girls
would name the person whose image had just passed his brain.
"It seems that Takigami Yoko-san used to call him. She
stopped calling him about two months ago."
Tagawa winced at these words. He was right ... , exactly
as the premonition had foretold. A heavy sigh escaped his
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use only.
It was an ironic encounter as Tagawa recalled. He couldn't
help making it out as ironic to find Takigami Y6ko in the N
Branch Office at which he had been assigned Manager.
Tagawa had graduated from the Department of Economics
of University A. After entering Nitt6 Bank, he worked for five
years as executive-in-training. His desk was in the first section
of the General Affairs Office in the main building. Sub­
sequently, he was sent to the Ikebukuro Branch Office, which
was an auxiliary branch of the bank in the 16hoku District.
This time, he was an executive-in-training in branch office
management. There, for the first time, he was introduced to
his co-worker Takigami- Y6ko. She was a clerk at the front
window, in charge of the day-to-day transactions.
Y6ko had graduated from high school and had worked in
the office for three years already. She was twenty-one years
old and was more experienced than Tagawa both as a clerk
and also in terms of the ins-and-outs of life at the regional
office. With the sophistication of a city woman, she covered
Tagawa's blunders. Tagawa was perturbed by the monotony
and uneventful ness of life in a regional office, mostly because
he knew nothing outside the colorful life of the main office.
Indeed, the dissatisfaction and chagrin felt by the bottom rank
workers in peripheral branch offices had no outlet.
Tagawa's immediate supervisor, Konno lun'ichi, in
charge of the day-to-day transactions, for instance, had
graduated from a provincial university and had been sent to a
branch office from the beginning. His career had always been
off the high-level executive track Tagawa was on. Konno would
never be given a chance to work in the main office. It was
evident that Tagawa and other future executives would pass
him by soon enough. Konno would be placed under their
supervision. All the more because of these circumstances,
Konno would at times bicker with the inexperienced Tagawa
as a mother-in-law would, but again would instantly soften up
and take Tagawa to a bar. Under the influence of alcohol, he
would cajole Tagawa with the words, "Please help me out in
the future."
While being harassed by frustration and the need to
persevere, this underling class gradually came to squeeze
themselves into the "banker type" mold, a severely confining
The first end-of-the-year party at the Ikebukuro Office was
held shortly after Tagawa was transferred there. This party fell
into an unbelievable nightmare.
"Too bad Manager is going to be absent from the party
this year again," Y6ko remarked, giving her hands a little rest
from bookkeeping. The bank's customer service was over by
"But he seems to be donating funds for the party. We
may have a better time without him."
"Only if nothing happens ..."
At the time, Tagawa did not catch the delicate nuances
of Y6ko's remark. The party was held in a neighboring
restaurant and went on merrily. Suddenly, just as the fun and
games started to get out of control, the lights went off.
Concurrently with the female clerks' theatrical screams,
Tagawa saw a number of shadows swooping toward the Deputy
Manager, who was sitting kitty-corner to him. He took this
movement to be a part of the entertainment and had no
suspicions. But against the noise of small tables being thrown
around and dishes and bowls being broken, the Deputy's
pathetic cry, "Cut it out!" pierced through the darkness.
Shadows swayed and muffled the shrieks. Startled by the heavy
and bizarre atmosphere condensed in the darkness, Tagawa
started to get up. Instantly, somebody grabbed his hand and
pulled him back in his seat. He could not make head from tails
in the darkness. He could not even tell who it was that had
pulled his hand. There was a thud of something falling down
the stairs.
"Don't move. Don't look at anything. Just sit still!"
It was Y6ko who was ordering him in whispers.
The lights came back on and the party members hurrahed.
But the Deputy's seat was a gaping hole. Only at the distraught
screams of the restaurant workers did Tagawa realize that
Yamazaki, the forty-five or forty-six-year-old Deputy Manager,
had been thrown down the stairs by somebody and was groaning.
The victim took nearly a week offfrom work for treatment.
It was an atrocious, incredible incident. It was a sinister
rebellion by the bottom rank workers against the institution's
forceful casting of them into a uniformity of personality. One
must not stand out, must not be praised or berated. One must
not become a topic of conversation. One must strive in every
way possible not to commit either virtue or vice.
Overnight, the bank was back to the smiling, sophisticated
work-place, just as it had always been. No one mentioned
Deputy Yamazaki's injury. Those who had struck out at him
in the darkness, as an outlet for their pent-up resentment,
received clients with the usual smiles. They threw themselves
diligently into their assigned work like a congregation of saints.
"Did you know what was going to happen'?" Tagawa asked
Y6ko a couple of days later when they ran into each other on
their way home. But Y6ko shook her head with a heavy-hearted
"That has nothing to do with Tagawa-san, because you
don't belong here. You will return to the main office and be
promoted to be a section head or an executive. It's best if you
forget about it quickly and finish up your service at the branch
office. Just stay away from this mess."
Tagawa momentarily felt that Y6ko's age and his were
reversed. Exactly a week after the party something else
happened: the spotting of a forged check. Y6ko, who was
waiting on clients as usual, nonchalantly attached a small note
to a check and sent it to Tagawa. Tagawa stretched his neck
and looked at the note.
He re-read it in surprise. He was not mistaken.
"Please have a seat and wait." Just when Tagawa cast his
glance at her Y6ko was addressing with her usual calmness a
pale-faced man in his forties who looked like a small factory
owner. Tagawa's head throbbed with pulsating blood. He lost
his composure, but Y6ko, as though to divert the man's
attention, took on another client.
Tagawa inserted the check along with Yoko's note in some
other documents and brought them to Chief Clerk Konno. His
knees trembled as he stood in front of the Chief Clerk. He was
afraid he might collapse.
It was a forgery alright, but a very amateurish one. The
number "6" had simply been changed to "9" with a pen. 7
1\ (6). fL
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Sixty-one thousand yen had been changed to ninety-one
thousand yen. It was the kind of forgery to be detected sooner
or later, even if the window clerk had failed to notice. Seen
from another angle, it showed how hard up the forger was.
The man was arrested in no time.
Assuming that the ideal image of a banker is not to be
praised, not to be criticized, nor even to be talked about,
Takigawa Yoko's difficulties, it may be said, started at this
Mostly because it happened to be the end of the year,
when a crime-prevention campaign was at its peak, the incident
attracted the newspapers' attention. They praised the exemplary
way in which Yoko had handled the situation. The articles
were entitled "An Ingenious Banker," "Skillfully Detecting a
Forger," and the like. Because Tagawa was her co-worker, he
was included in a picture in the papers.
Tagawa learned from the newspaper articles that the
criminal's name was Hirayama IchirO. He managed a small
manufacturing business. A machine which made plastic bags
was installed in the entrance of his tiny house. Both the man
and his wife did everything, from delivering the products to
the wholesalers, to operating the machine. They worked
assiduously, even cutting down on their sleep at night, but they
could not make ends meet at the end of the year. After much
anguish, Hirayama made up his mind to resort to crime.
The incident precipitated an intimacy between Tagawa
and Yoko. Yoko forced Tagawa to join a company skiing trip
in the JCietsu Highlands during the three day New Year's
vacation. They spent the entire vacation as lovers. Yoko was
in high spirits and was active as though her youth had swept
her away. Her laughter and nimble movements permeated
Tagawa's mind.
It was in mid-January that Yoko asked in a formal manner,
"Would you like to have tea with me on our way home?"
Tagawa met her by the West Exit of the station, which was
on the other side of the station from his bank building. They
walked passed the insolently lined up drinking stalls in front
of the station and came to a Western style delicatessen-coffee
shop near North Ikebukuro.
'There's something I would like to talk over with you,
Tagawa-san," Yoko began after ordering something to drink.
She told Tagawa that her father was a guard at the Nippori
Branch Office of the Nitto Bank. It was he who had arranged
her employment at the Ikebukuro Office.
"The Deputy Manager asked me yesterday if I would be
interested in moving to the General Affairs Department in the
main office," Yoko announced with hardly a sign of elation.
"Sounds great!"
"I imagine that the incident has something to do with this
"Whatever the reason, it's an exceptional break for you.
No matter how you look at it, the main office is the best. It
makes you feel you are really working for a bank."
Apparently, the main office had been obliged to make a
gesture of appreciation towards Yoko so long as the incident
of the forged check had gotten so much pUblicity.
"But ... ,.. Yoko cast a glance downward as though she
was thinking about something. Then quickly she looked up
straight into Tagawa's handsome face. "When can Tagawa-san
go back to the main office?" Yoko asked urgently without even
"I wish I knew. It's been only four months since I came
to Ikebukuro. It's unlikely that I get to go back for another
two or three years." Tagawa equivocated, flinching at Yoko's
strangely intense stare.
"What does your father say? That's more important."
"He advises me to take the post, because it's a great
"Definitely. Also, the main office has a lot of good-looking
men. They won't leave you alone for long. You will be
proposed to."
Tagawa talked jokingly, making himself at home. Their
relationship after the forged check incident, the New Year's
ski trip, and a couple of dates, one coming right after another,
was close enough to permit this kind of dialogue. But the way
Tagawa teased her made Yoko's eyes cloud over. Her head
suddenly dropped down.
"That's why I don't want to go. If Tagawa-san talks like
that, I will tum down the offer ," she said in a trembling voice.
"What's wrong?" he asked in bewilderment. This change
in her was something he had not expected. He did not think
he had said anything wrong. The main office was better than
a branch office-that was simply common knowledge. But
Yoko shook her bowed head. She shook it once again after a
short while, as though to shake off Tagawa's way of talking.
"Did I say something wrong?"
"You said that the handsome men there won't leave me
"No kidding, though. It may really happen."
"Please. Don't talk like that. I feel rotten," Yoko
interrupted Tagawa, revealing her virginal innocence. She
could not tolerate the idea of a stranger proposing to her to get
"I have a better time at this Ikebukuro Office."
"Oh? But you won't come across another chance to go to
the main office," Tagawa admonished her, and suspected at
the same time that Yoko would be transferred for certain to
another office at the bank's next personnel rotation, if she lets
go of this offer. Now that she had caught the forged check,
had been written up in the papers, and had made herself a topic
of conversation, Yoko had ceased to be the invisible clerk
which all the rest were.
A bank should be a place where nothing exciting happens,
a place to which clients peacefully entrust their money. Even
though nothing was wrong, the sheer fact that something had
happened at the front window would slow down the canvassing
activities. Yoko's presence at the front window of the
Ikebukuro Office would only remind customers, over and over
again, of the unpleasant incident. Her presence, therefore, was
undesirable. A bank usually makes an effort to wipe off the
trace of such a troublesome impression quickly. Here was the
merit of the personnel rotation. Tagawa meant to explain that
it would be far better for her to be sent to the main office than
to another nasty place, but Yoko raised her eyes as though to
cut off his words.
"... it's because, if I go to the main office, I won't be
able to work with Tagawa-san."
"Work with me?" asked Tagawa, thrusting his face
forward. Yoko gave a big nod. Tagawa looked back at her in
surprise. Yoko's eyes, ardently looking into Tagawa's face,
were filled with burning desire. Tagawa sensed a desperate
affection in the sparks of her eyes which were ready to ignite.
It was her suicidal proposal.
"Shall we go outside?"
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
"Please stay a little while longer." Yoko shook her head
violently. And she pleaded in a still more precipitous tone, "I
would like to work with you. But if it bothers you, I would
like you to let me know clearly."
Her gasp echoed loud in Tagawa's heart.
"How can I be bothered? You taught me everything about
the branch office life and work."
"No, that's not what I'm talking about. Please tell me
. . ." The tone of her voice was violent and petulant. Without
giving him a chance to hedge, Yoko demanded that he evaluate
her feelings towards him.
"If you don't mind." Tagawa spoke looking slightly
"I don't." Yoko spoke as though she clung onto Tagawa's
words with her entire body.
When Tagawa raised his smiling face, rapturous jubilation
spread over her blushing cheeks. Tagawa was impressed by
Yoko's youthful glamor. At that instant, he wished to arrive
at a deeper and more violent conviction which might satisfy
his flaring passion. "Let's have a drink." Tagawa offered the
initiative, being careful in the meantime not to let her know
that he wanted to express his man's urgent desire and decide
the issue at once.
Smiling hesitantly, Yoko nodded gently.
Outside the coffee shop, a whirling, chilly wind enveloped
the two people. Yoko leaned heavily on the arm Tagawa
casually thrust out. That night Tagawa got engaged to Y6ko
whose white flesh was stained by fresh blood.
It did not take long for talk of their relationship to spread
among the Ikebukuro Office employees. Yako was in a constant
rapture over the idea of marriage with Tagawa. When her
colleagues teased her, she blushed happily, even appreciatively.
Such scenes made Tagawa feel that he should conclude the
marriage before long.
"Let's first talk to your father."
No matter how quickly he wanted to proceed, there were
preparations to make. They had to be taken care of in a certain
order. The happiness of having Yoko's help bolstered him
through these otherwise onerous procedures.
Takigarni Yiikichi, Yoko's father, who worked as a guard
at the Nippori Office, met Tagawa cordially in his Takinogawa
"My daughter has been telling me about you. Please don't
worry about me. I will manage by myself after she gets married.
I only have this apartment of a six tatami mat" room to look
Yiikichi was courteous and calm. He showed a sensitive
concern, trying to free Tagawa from any anxiety about
disntpting the father-daughter bond.
"I would like to have the wedding this spring. If I wait
till fall, I will be twenty-nine."
Bowing his gray-haired head low, Yiikichi cordially
thanked Tagawa for suggesting that they make simple prepara­
8. The size of a tatami mat in the Tokyo area nowadays is 5.8 by 2.0 feet
(1. 76 by 0.88 meters) according to Kodansha Encyclopedia ofJapan (Tokyo,
1983), p. 348.
tions to suit Yiikichi's financial condition. Tagawa decided to
introduce Yoko to his parents in Yamanashi Prefecture early
in February.
Very early that February, Hirayama Ichiro, the culprit
who had forged the check committed family suicide.
Chief Clerk Konno, who had opened the evening paper
shortly before the five o'clock closing hour, called Tagawa
in a disturbed voice, "Oh, God! That son of a gun has
committed suicide!"
Tagawa twisted his body to look back at Konno.
"That son of a gun?"
"Yeah, that forged check criminal."
"What! Hirayama . . ."
Tagawa kicked away his chair and rushed to Konno's
desk. "Small Businessman Commits Family Suicide." The
large headline jumped out at Tagawa's eyes. Tagawa bent over
the caption which started with a quotation from Hirayama's
will, "Once convicted of forgery, it's impossible to make a
living ..."
"It's a suicide of a family of five," Konno reported to the
other clerks. All turned to look at him.
"A family suicide!" Somebody shouted.
Two or three people rushed to look at the newspaper on
Konno's desk. One of them groaned, "With gas."
"I never got to see the criminal closely, but I would have
never guessed that he had three such cute children. What a
nightmare." Konno shook his head afflicted.
The paper reported that it appeared that Hirayama Ichir6
and his wife waited till their children had fallen asleep, took
sleeping pills, and turned on the gas.
The so-called check forgery was only a matter of changing
the figure "sixty thousand" to "ninety thousand." It was a crime
of thirty thousand yen. On the grounds that the bank incurred
no real loss, it decided not to prosecute. Hirayama Ichiro had
been released from jail quite awhile before.
Having read the article, and turning his face away from
the picture of the family of five, Tagawa looked at Y6ko.
"It was only thirty thousand yen. I don't see why he had
to die," Yoko heard one of the bank clerks remark after reading
the paper. She got on her feet with her pale face bent downward.
Covering her mouth with her hand, she scurried out to the
locker room. Tagawa hurried after her. Yoko was standing
alone motionless by the end of a row of lockers. She lost
control of herself at the sight of Tagawa and covered her face
with both hands.
"Let's not worry about it." Tagawa held Yoko's shoulders
and pulled her toward him. "It wasn't our fault, was it?"
"But, it was because I found the forgery. Yes, I drove
them to family suicide." Yoko lifted her tear-filled eyes and
looked up at Tagawa pleadingly.
"You are worrying too much."
"But I can't forget that man's exhausted face." Unable to
control her emotions, Yoko pressed her face onto Tagawa's
chest. "It was my fault. Yes, absolutely. I get to marry Junji-san
because of that incident. Meanwhile, someone else was driven
to commit suicide ... how dreadful!"
"You are wrong. Pull yourself together."
There was no need to picture what kind of life the
Hirayama family had led since it had been written up in the
papers. But was it necessary for Yoko and Tagawa to bear the
blame for it?
"Oh, I hate it. I can't stand it! He may have died cursing
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use only.
us. Don't you think so?"
"More serious than cursing would be the question of how
Y6ko and I struck him. As merciless prosecutors? As stuck-up
money guards ... ?" wondered Tagawa. Y6ko was not the
only one to feel wretched.
"What else could we do then? You see, once a forgery is
noticed, a banker is not allowed to overlook it. Even supposing
that a family suicide was to follow as a consequence, we
shouldn't be blamed for it, to say the least. Money. Money is
the evil force."
Tagawa held Y6ko tightly against his tall body, as if to
chase away his delusion.
"I would like you to wait awhile before you take me to
your parents," asked Y6ko the next day.
It was understandable. Tagawa decided to wait till Y6ko
had recovered from the trauma of the Hirayama family's sui­
cide. But as it turned out, the family suicide of the man
convicted of check forgery was only an omen that the bond
between Tagawa and Y6ko would be disrupted. Exactly a week
later, when Y6ko was just pulling out of her shock and
regaining mental eqUilibrium, Takigawa Yiikichi was em­
broiled in a scandal.
That morning, Tagawa was awakened by his apartment
manager's call, "Telephone!"
"My father is in trouble."
The call was from Y6ko, sobbing helplessly. Rubbing his
sleepy eyes and gathering the collar of his night robe together,
Tagawa asked clumsily, "What's going on?"
"I was right. The man who committed suicide was cursing
us." Y6ko's words made little sense. Only sometime later, she
brought herself together to explain in a choking voice, "My
father is in critical condition." Putting her choppy phrases
together, Tagawa figured out that there had been a carbon
monoxide poisoning caused by the imperfect combustion of a
gas burner at her father's Nippori Office. Two young bankers
who happened to be staying overnight in the Night Duty Room
had passed away. Yiikichi alone barely survived, but had been
taken to the hospital in critical condition.
''I'm calling from the hospital. My father is in the
emergency room, and ..." Upset and distraught, Y6ko lost
track of what she was saying.
"Where is the hospital? Do you hear me? Which hospital
are you in?"
"Right by Nippori Station, M Hospital."
"I'll be right over. Your father is safe, isn't he?"
"They are giving him oxygen."
"There's no such thing as Hirayama Ichir6's curse, so
calm down. Understand? Pull yourself together."
Rushing back to his room, Tagawa changed his clothes
and ran out. It was difficult to find a taxi. The one he finally
caught moved cautiously and slowly. He could almost hear
Y6ko's desperate voice calling from the other shore of the river
Styx. "Why did that gentle Takigami Yfikichi have to ... ?"
Tagawa brooded over the nature of the accident. Finally in the
hospital, he found Y6ko doubled up on a chair in a corridor.
A chilly breeze blew through.
"How did it go?" he asked, running up to her.
Y6ko raised her face vacantly. She directed her empty
gaze at the emergency room. She looked like a figure drained
out of the energy to cry or tears to drop.
"Does it seem as if he's going to make it?"
"I have no idea."
"I wonder if it's really bad."
"... he may not have a chance."
"Don't be foolish." Tagawa squeezed Y6ko 's hand firmly.
Presently, the Deputy Manager of the Nippori Office ran
over. Also, the police who had inspected the site came to check
on Yfikichi's condition. The Deputy Manager explained what
might have happened.
His story was that Yiikichi was on duty the night before.
He must have allowed the two bank clerks to stay overnight.
The two had gotten drunk in the Nippori area and had missed
the last train. Judging from the appearance of the room,
furthermore, it was likely that the two men started drinking
what they brought. Yiikichi joined them. In drunkenness, he
fell asleep on the floor without shutting off the gas burner.
This was what caused the incomplete combustion.
"Please wait. Takigami-san can't drink."
"There's always such a thing as being obliged to drink."
The Nippori Deputy Manager insisted that it was improb­
able for Tagawa to fall asleep on the floor unless he had been
drinking. Tagawa asked how it could be possible that the two
young men had died and the elderly man, Y6ko's father, had
survived, if they had all been drinking. But the Deputy would
not discuss this point. Tagawa foresaw that the finger of blame
would be pointed at Yiikichi sooner or later.
Y6ko's father, who pulled through by the skin of his teeth,
was moved to his Takinogawa apartment after nearly ten days'
hospitalization. The aftereffect of the muscular and brain
paralysis, however, had turned him into a semi-vegetable. To
make matters worse, the Nippori branch office dismissed
Takigami Yiikichi from his post on the grounds that his
fingerprints were found on a teacup.
The personnel rotation at Nitt6 Bank usually takes place
in May and November. Because Tagawa was judged to have
been indirectly involved in the incident as well as the accident,
his name was included in the list of the people to be transferred
as part of the May rotation. He was sent back to the main
building eralier than originally planned. He and Y6ko stood
out too conspicuously in the Ikebukuro Office.
"We could be married by now, if nothing had happened,"
Tagawa spoke to Y6ko pensively after reporting his transfer.
This was when Y6ko at the Ikebukuro Office needed him more
than ever, but nothing personal could countermand the
periodical rotation.
"Maybe by fall my father will be better. Also, Junji-san
will still be in Tokyo even after you move to the main office."
We can see each other anytime we want to-.
Y6ko must have wanted to say this, but there was no time
left for her now that she had to attend her father. Her father
could no longer take care of his bowel movements. Three
months passed without a date, to say nothing of physical
relations between them. The financial burden on Y6ko was tre­
mendous. She had to scrape together, out of a twenty-one-year­
old woman's salary, her father's medical expenses as well as
their living costs. Yiikichi had absolutely no income. Tagawa
knew the magnitude of the burden. He offered to help, but
Y6ko would not accept.
The last shred of hope left for Y6ko to restore the hopeless
invalid was mercilessly snatched away that autumn, the very
autumn she had once looked forward to. Yiikichi's condition
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use only.
went from bad to worse. Yoko had to take off many days from
work in order to look after him. Upon hearing from a clerk in
the Ikebukuro Office that Yoko had missed work for over ten
days, Tagawa stopped at her Takinogawa apartment. This was
his first visit in months.
Yoko was sitting forlornly by Yfikichi's pillow. A sad
smile appeared on her lifeless pale face when she saw Tagawa.
'''The doctor came about an hour ago, and gave him a shot."
Yfikichi was asleep, his mouth agape like a child. Out of
the blue, Yoko suggested taking a walk. "Once he has fallen
asleep, he is alright till morning."
The red and round early October moon was almost re­
morselessly bright for the couple who found themselves
walking side by side for the first time in some months. In
silence, each craved for a place where they could embrace each
other firmly. In a narrow alley leading to Asukayama Park,
Tagawa saw the shabby sign-board of an inn. As he turned
back, Yoko nodded pressing her body against his.
The walls and the ceiling of the somber room were filthy.
The quilt, not even enclosed in a white coverlet, looked ruefully
"I've done something wrong to Tagawa-san." Yoko spoke
in a formal manner, facing Tagawa, but without using her usual
appellation "Junji-san."
"It's not your fault," said Tagawa comfortingly.
Tagawa pulled Yoko's thin, limp hand and embraced her.
Yoko lay back on the quilting and sought Tagawa's lips,
trembling. It was not just her body, but the very marrow of
her soul that had been craving after gentle affection. At
Tagawa's first embrace in many months, her entire body
instantly flared up. She kept repeating as if in a delirium, "I've
done something awful to Tagawa-san."
That night, for the first time, Yoko reached climax.
Tagawa also, engulfed by her frenzied and violent reaction,
was bathed in a soaring intoxication.
It was right after this that Yoko broached the proposal to
call off the wedding engagement. She insisted that they could
not marry as long as she was taking care of her invalid father,
and that there was little hope for his recovery. She pleaded
desperately with Tagawa that he not let her get in his way.
"I am no longer worthy of Tagawa-san's love. I can't
even offer my body when you need it." Yoko dissolved into
tears, remonstrating with Tagawa-and finally even shouting
at him-to forget her, because there was no hope for their
Never after that day did Yoko telephone Tagawa. On days
when he visited the Takinogawa apartment, using Yiikichi's
illness as an excuse, she would receive Tagawa only with
empty formality, as if he were a stranger.
A new marriage offer came Tagawa's way in early
On a holiday, Business Department Manager Koyanagi
Yiizo invited Tagawa to his Shiba-Takanawa home, and
advised, "You are asking for misunderstanding by staying a
bachelor for such a long time." The name of the woman
Koyanagi brought to Tagawa's attention was Oribe Misako.
She was the second daughter of Nitto Bank's leading customer,
a graduate from the Department of French Literature of Uni­
versity A, 25 years old.
"She's by no means young, but she's good looking as you
can see from this photograph. She has the perfect background
for a banker's wife." Koyanagi hammered away, "You already
know what kind of place a bank is. It's different from ordinary
companies. One cannot marry just anyone."
"I appreciate your concern."
Tagawa was on the verge of telling Koyanagi that he was
already engaged to be married to another woman when Koya­
nagi continued knowingly, "For example, one must not marry
the daughter of a guard who, out of carelessness, got drunk
and fell asleep, and as a result, took the lives of two young
and promising men."
"But that accident was . . ."
"I know. I have talked with the Manager of the Ikebukuro
Office. You probably want to add that the woman is the one
who spotted the forged check. But even that is a problem to
us now."
"Don't you see? Suppose you marry her, everytime you
are reviewed for promotion, there is bound to be someone who
will say that Tagawa-kun9 is outstanding but his wife is
problematic. That won't help. Think twice about what I'm
saying. I mean her father's incident and the forged check case
included. All of this will affect your future adversely, making
you seem as problematic. You will be branded a non-desirable
type of banker. This is why I transferred you out from the
Ikebukuro Office. Once you are tainted it's too late. Nothing
can remove the stain. A person in charge of personnel-who­
ever it may be-would take the less tainted one, if he had to
choose between you and someone else."
''Tainted . . ."
A strange word. While it has virtually no meaning in and
of itself, its connotations are endless. In the extremely limited
context of bank parlance, moreover, the word has the power
to take over people's personalities. Koyanagi added, "I want
you to think hard about the meaning of the phrase we hear all
the time, 'the image of a typical banker. '" That is, a banker
must be trustworthy and almost impartially serious, and at the
same time, must not have any personality. Koyanagi was asking
Tagawa to fit himself into the assigned mold. One could not re­
main at the highly selective level of executive without coming
to terms with this framework.
Tagawa refrained from making a clear-cut response. He
asked Koyanagi to give him some time to make up his mind.
Koyanagi patiently kept after him through the end of the year,
going so far as. to admonish, "This is your last chance to wipe
out the stain you almost got at the Ikebukuro Office."
In January of the following year, Yoko was transferred
to the Sugamo Office, as a part of an irregular rotation. The
superficial reason given by the bank was that it would be easier
for her to look after her father if she worked closer to her
home. But in practice, the Sugamo Office was farther way
from her apartment than the Ikebukuro Office. There was no
telling where she might be sent next.
Tagawa finally made up his mind and told Yoko in a letter
that he probably would be married in the near future.
His marriage to Oribe Misako took place just as he was
offered a promotion to Chief Clerk of the Business Department,
First Section. The announcement of promotion was dated May
9. "-kun" is a title suffix like "-san" and "-shi." but the addressee or the
~eferen.t is usual!y a man of lower status or of younger age. unless the speaker
IS a chIld speakmg to another male child.
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
first. Ironically, it was when Tagawa returned from his honey­
moon that he heard about YUkichi's death. Yoko's father had
just died after a year and several months' illness; by the time
he breathed his last, he was as frightened of death as a child,
because of the brain damage.
Tagawa's first son was born, and his second, two years
later. In the fourth year after his marriage to Misako, Tagawa
was singled out to be the Deputy Section Chief of the Business
Department. At last, he had a clear sense of his future. He was
definitely on the high level executive track. This turn of events
could be seen as a reward for marrying someone recommended
by Koyanagi, the Business Department Manager.
About a year before he was appointed as Manager of N
office-that is, in the seventh year after he moved from the
Ikebukuro Office back to the Main Office-Tagawa heard
about Yoko, the woman he had nearly forgotten. It so happened
that Aizawa Koichi had transferred from the Sugamo Branch
Office and joined Tagawa's section. Tagawa sponsored a small
welcome party for him.
"Sir, have you heard of a woman named Takigami Yoko?"
asked Aizawa as an afterthought, when the conversation drifted
to the topic of personnel.
"Takigami Yoko!" repeated Tagawa, taken aback. It was
a name he had long forgotten.
"They say she has worked with you before, in the
Ikebukuro Office," Aizawa went on with a smile, probably
because he was uninformed about the details.
"We used to sit next to each other at the customer window.
But that's when I was twenty-eight years old. Seven years ago,
wouldn't it be? How do you know her?"
"Because she is in the Sugamo Office."
"In Sugamo? Is she still single?"
"Of course. Didn't you know?"
-Oh, she hasn't married yet. Tagawa recalled his
affectionate relationship with Yoko which never came to bear
"And how is she doing these days?"
"I hear she will be transferred to another office. It's
because there's a problem."
"A problem?"
"Nothing serious, but we call her Miss Nymphomania in
the Sugamo Office."
At Tagawa's question, "Miss Nymphomania?" Aizawa
nodded with an eloquent smile.
"To make a long story short, I think she wants to get
"That's understandable. She must be getting on in years.
But what exactly do you mean by Miss Nymphomania?" The
expression was new to Tagawa.
Two or three young clerks looked at each other and
"Haven't you heard, Sir? It's a type you often see among
old maids. She'll be the first one to have a date with a new
comer to the office. That kind, you know. Nobody who's been
in the office for awhile pays attention to her. From what I hear,
women like this will even date men who approach them at the
teller's window or call, sight unseen, over the phone. At least
so they say."
Every year around April or May, Tagawa would notice
couples made up of what appeared to be experienced office
women and newly employed men , in such popular dating
places as Chidorigafuchi or Yoyogi Olympic Parle. The thought
that Yoko-now twenty-eight years old-had become expert
in this role, worrying one minute whether her face powder was
wearing off, yet acting quite sophisticated the next, was
unbearable. It actually was not a matter of bearability. It was
a scene of moral depravity.
"I wonder why she can't get married. She is a smart,
polished woman."
''I'm not sure. When you talk with her, she strikes you
as a nice person. She is kind and thoroughly considerate to
men. It's just that she occasionally acts licentious. Maybe
people are turned off by something dingy about her."
"Betrayed and tramped on by many men; that kind of
impression . . ."
Tagawa found the word distasteful. It perfectly charac­
terized the history of Yoko's relationship with men for the
entire period following her separation from him. He felt guilty.
Of all places, it was in the N Office to which he moved
with so much ambition that Tagawa now found Yoko. It was
to the N Office that she had been transferred from Sugamo.
"How are your children?" Yoko would ask casually when
they passed each other in hallways. But that was all. Tagawa
invited her out once, but she smiled lightly and turned away.
It was Takigami Yoko who had disclosed the confidential
information which could determine the fate of the bank . . .!
Tagawa fought back the idea. But Yoko had been in charge
of the long-term savings accounts and was familiar with the
confidential large-account holders. Once it had been proven
that she had contact with Saeki Kikuo from the Daido Bank,
there was no room for further doubt.
First Tagawa thought of calling Yoko to the Branch
Office Manager's office, but at the last minute he could not
bring himself to make the interrogation quite so official. He
told Yoko over the telephone, "I have something to ask you
about Saeki Kikuo. I think you know him."
It was difficult to ascertain Yoko' s reaction over the
telephone, but after a moment's hesitation, Yoko returned a
short reply, "I see." Tagawa told her that he wanted to meet
her in front of the department store, by the west exit of
Ikebukuro Station.
At 7 p.m., the appointed time, Yoko was standing, with
bright lipstick on, in front of the iron grille of the closed
department store.
"Shall we take a walk?"
Yoko nodded at Tagawa's proposal. Since heaven knows
when, her face which used to be round and chubby had become
angular and her cheek bones were protruding. Her skin looked
unusually rough in the neon light at dusk.
"It's been eight years since we walked like this the last
time." Tagawa spoke warmly, turning back toward her.
"Tagawa-san. Won't you be in trouble, if someone sees
you walking with a woman like me?" Yoko cast her glance
slightly downward.
"Don't talk to me that way. How about some food?"
" ... I'd rather drink."
"You drink?" Tagawa could only throw back the question.
That evening eight years ago, when she so passionately
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use only.
25 Then, she took out from her red leather wallet about ten one
thousand yen notes to show Tagawa.
"Since young men spend a lot, their salaries don't tide
them over till the next payday. I can at least help out with a
little. But, I never loan more than two thousand to one person.
Because they'll never talk to me again, if the debt becomes
more than they can pay back."
It was a strange scene: she would put down her cigarette,
pick up the glass, put the cigarette back in her mouth, and
ransack her pocketbook.
"Say, shall I tell you something else? You know
Kaneko-san, who is getting married this fall? I introduced his
fiancee to him. I used to go out with him till quite recently.
Can you guess why I did that?"
"You've told me enough. Don't torture yourself any
"I'm used to it. It doesn't bother me. It was like this when
I worked in Sugamo also. While I'm going out with young
men in the office, I'm always worrying about when they refuse
to have another date with me, or say, 'Let's not meet tonight. '
Tagawa-san won't know what I mean. I'm lonely. So, just
before anything like that turns up, I introduce them to young
girls who are good matches for them. That way, I'm never
totally rejected. I can avoid the pain of being abandoned. This
way, they may even go on seeing me once in a while."
Yoko's words were strangely dry. After awhile, she
carefully put back the thread, the needles, the handkerchieves,
and the wallet which had been lying on the table.
"Laugh at me if you want to. But so much has happened.
And I'm already twenty-nine years old. Nothing can change
that. Saeki-san has been really nice to me. But, you see, there's
nothing I can do for him. I was just wnodering what I could
do for him when he asked me for the list of confidential clients. "
Tagawa felt a turbulent anger churning upward in his
chest, a feeling diametrically opposed to the nonchalance with
which Yoko told her tale. Did she have to go that far? Just
because Saeki was nice to her, did she have to ruin herself by
being taken advantage of, like a toy or a tool, by a middle-aged
married man? Bastard! Our enemy has taken advantage of
Yoko, a woman coveting men, craving for a chance to get
married, full of weaknesses and defenseless as a naked person.
Tagawa could not tolerate even the idea that Saeki resembled
"Are you going to keep on seeing Saeki?" asked Tagawa,
barely suppressing his boiling anger. The thought that he would
march into the Daido Bank as early as tomorrow had been
churning in his head. He would uncover Saeki Kikuo's
cowardice, and bring back the list given by yoko. As soon as
it was made public that he had used a woman, Saeki would
have to suffer the consequences-as a banker-even if it had
been done for the benefit of his bank. Banks try to stay out of
trouble. This case can even become a scandal.
Without answering Tagawa's question, Yoko called a
waiter nearby, and ordered another drink. In coincidental
togetherness, the two people let out a sigh in despair.
"... I suppose it won't work," said Yoko in a low voice.
"A man's career ends when people start to talk about him. It's
the same in any bank, isn't it? No matter how hard I try to
keep him, Saeki-san, in his tum, will start running away from
proposed to him, Yoko had turned crimson after a glass of gin.
"Yes, that's the only way to ..." A short petulant
response was thrown back.
Bars had been cleared away from the area in front of the
west exit of the station, and there sprawled a wide street.
Tagawa went to the bar district near North Ikebukuro and
walked down one flight to a basement Suntory Bar. Yoko
ordered whiskey on the rocks. Watching her movements,
Tagawa knew that he would have to maintain his detachment.
Avoiding Tagawa's eyes, Yoko impatiently reached for one of
the glasses that had just been brought to the table.
"Do you hate me?" Tagawa started slowly. This, in fact,
was the problem tormenting him the most. Suppose it was
proven that Yoko had leaked the confidential information out
of her personal resentment towards him, and if she had
attempted to deprive him of his professional title, there was
no way he could report it to the Main Office.
"If you are disgusted with me, I won't talk any more."
As Tagawa repeated the same sentence, Yoko burst into
wild laughter.
"What's the matter?"
"Don't worry. I neither hate nor have a grudge against
Tagawa-san. It was I who asked you to break off the
"Then, am I right in saying that this is not revenge against
me?" asked Tagawa cautiously.
Yoko took a king-size cigarette out of her pocketbook,
held it in the comer of her mouth, and lit it with a lighter.
Tagawa's life had changed greatly in many respects after he
married Misako and got on the executive track. But he
suspected that Yoko had changed even more, and possibly
more than he could imagine, after he parted from her and since
her father had passed away.
"Saeki-san ... ," Yoko began to talk" but smiled, and
shrugged her shoulders slightly, "looks like Tagawa-san."
"Especially his physique. He is tall and thin and slightly
"Are you going to marry him?"
"Aren't you?"
"He has a wife. I can't marry him." Yoko blew a puff of
cigarette at the blue lights overhead, as she spoke.
-Why does she wear such heavy makeup? Tagawa's
eyes were fastened on Yoko. But Yoko lifted her eyes, with
an impulse strong enough to repel Tagawa's sympathetic gaze.
"You'll never understand why a woman goes out with a
married man. But please don't look as if you feel sorry for
me." Whatever may have come to her mind, Yoko abruptly
placed her pocketbook on the table. "I'll show you what I
always carry with me." She opened the metal clasp with a dull
"Four handkerchieves. Do you know what I do with them?
Men often forget to bring their handkerchieves, so I let them
borrow mine. I tell them just to bring them back when they
are through with them. Here are needles and thread. See? Not
just black and white; I have navy blue, brown; I have every
kind from cotton thread to nylon thread. Three kinds of spare
buttons. I mend all their lost buttons and tom clothes. I even
keep an iron in my desk drawer at the office."
Poking around in her pocketbook, as a child searches in
her toy box, Yoko started lining up all sorts of paraphernalia.
-My situation was different; I didn't run away from her.
Tagawa controlled his desire to speak. He realized that a man
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
who had chosen to project the image of a model banker had
no right to defend himself in front of a woman like Yoko. He
lacked even the confidence to assist Yoko who had no prospects
for the future. One could even say that Saeki Kikuo, who had
taken advantage of Yoko, was far more humane than Tagawa
"I'll get the list back. Please don't make an issue of it.
I'm sure Saeki-san will understand that a scandal would be
disadvantageous to him." Yoko talked with her head gradually
dropping down.
Yoko was absent from work for two days. On the third
day, a special delivery envelope from her arrived in Tagawa's
office. The contents were a letter of resignation and the list of
the confidential long-term savings account clients. In one
comer, a single line had been scribbled, "Saeki-san went along
with my request."
"What shall we do, Sir? Shall we mail Takigami-kun 1o
her retirement fund?"
Deputy Manager Nishiyama came to ask for Tagawa's
advice. Yoko was probably still living in the Takinogawa
"Yes, please do."
"The electric iron in her drawer; we will send that back, ,
too. "
"An iron?"
"Yes, she used to press young men's shirts and things
like that."
"We better not. That would be too heartless."
"I'll keep it."
At Nishiyama's direction, one of the office girls brought
Tagawa a rusty iron. Tagawa's hands responded to the feel of
the cold iron and the peculiar weight of the lead inside. He
carefully buried it deep in his bottom desk drawer.
The Monthly Multi-Disciplinary
Journal Devoted to the Study and
Promotion of World Development
Chairman of the Editorial Board:
P P STREETEN, Economic Dtwe/opm""t
Institute, The World &nk. 1818 H Street
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World Dflvelopment provides 8 forum
for international dialogue across
national, disciplinary and professional
barriers in order to stimulate new and
imaginative insights for tackling the
chief evils of the developing world:
malnutrition, disease, illiteracy, slums
and unemployment. Original research
and review papers critically exami ne
such topics as: the application of
appropriate science and technology;
relations between rich and poor
countries; the impact of world
inflation; the transfer of 'Western'
institutions to the different societies or
countries attempting to develop, and
implications for the Third World of
Western concern for environmental
10. Sometimes. a woman is called by a man of a higher status with the male
suffix "-kun."
14 ............. _ _ Structurel _rminanta of government budget deficits in developing countries, T K MORRISON. Approaches to a Nawlntametional Economic Order. P STREETEN.
I. there a poverty trap for developing countries? Pola".atlon: rulity or myth?
H W SINGER. R A MAHMOOD. Structurel edjullment policies in developing economies. B BALASSA. Ha. political risk scared mlnerel investment away from the depolita in developing countries? MRADETZKI. The 'luxury unemployment' hypOthesis: I
review of recent evidence, A r UDAlL.
Research on rur.l-to-urban migration in
LOCs: the confusion frontier and why we
should pause to rethink afresh, 0 STARK.
The ten commandments of renewable
energy, D FRENCH.
Growth constraints on smlU--IC81e
:'~:'c'!l~;:~ ~n:H~f~ng countries: a
Published monthly (Volume 13'
Annual sublcrlption (1985)
Two-Vea, rate (19851881
Developments in social accounting
methods as applied to the analyai. of
:~~:~t\fA~i~ ~8'8~~ent
A systeml model of rural development,
Copies of articles from this
publication are now available from
the UMI Article Clearinghouse.
Mail to: University Microfilms International
300 North Z••b Road. Box 91 Ann Arbor. MI 48106
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use only.
Heirs of the Dragon by
De Jian
Translation and Introduction by Tinna K. Wu
This is a translation of a song written in late 1978 by
Hou De Jian, a literature student at National Chengchi
University in Taiwan. This song was written at the height of
the protest of the Chinese people in Taiwan against the U.S.
government's decision to sever diplomatic ties with the
Republic of China.
"Heirs of the Dragon" powerfully aroused the sense of
ethnic pride of the Chinese people in Taiwan and contributed
greatly to the maintenance of dignity at that historic moment
when they felt they had been betrayed by an old friend. Instantly
the song became a hit and catapulted Hou to national fame. It
also became very popular among the overseas Chinese.
Because of its patriotic theme, the song found its way very
quickly to mainland China and became an immediate success
among young people there. Hou De Jian's song expressed the
cultural longing of this Taiwan-born songwriter, and through
him, the longing also of the overseas Chinese for their native
land. It was, in the true sense of the words, music to the ears
of the PRC government United Front in its ongoing efforts for
the reunification of China. So even though it was from Taiwan
and to the consternation of many in Taiwan, the song was
appropriated and used to promote the one-people, one-China
Even more unexpected was the fact that Hou, already
regarded as a popular hero in Taiwan because of his song,
would become the center of a major political controversy in
June of 1983 upon leaving his wife and baby son in Taiwan
to live in mainland China. The reason he gave reporters for
going to China was to seek inspiration for new songs. He was
warmly welcomed and given guided tours in China by the
Beijing government. His going to China certainly gave the
PRC government considerable propaganda mileage, but it left
many people in Taiwan in great puzzlement. Hou's celebrated
'return' to the mainland is probably of little importance to the
whole problem of the reunification of China, but it must be
having quite a powerful impact on Hou himself. Now that he
has fulfilled his dreams of seeing the Yangtze River and hearing
the rolling waves of the Huang Ho, will another song as
poignant and inspiring as the "Heirs of the Dragon" be
forthcoming? It will be interesting to know.
Hou De Jian was born in Taiwan in 1956. His parents are
natives of Sichuan province.
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
There is a river in the faraway East;
It is called by the name Yangtze.
There is a great "Ho" in the faraway East;
It is called by the name Huang Ho.
Although I have never seen the beauty of the Yangtze,
I have often floated down its stream in my dreams.
Although I have never heard the majestic torrents of Huang Ho,
Its crushing waves rumble in my dreams.
There is a dragon in the ancient East; It is called by the name Zhongguo. There is a group of people in the ancient East Who are the heirs of that dragon. I grew up in the shadow of its feet; I'll be the dragon's heir when I come of age one day. Dark eye, black hair, and yellow skin; I'll be the dragon's heir always. © BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
On the Transfer of Power in India by Suniti Kumar Ghosh
The transfer of power in India in 1947 brought a sense of
"fulfillment" to the three parties to the settlement-the British
raj, the Congress and the Muslim League. British Prime
Minister Clement Attlee declared that it was "not the abdication
but the fulfillment of Britain's mission in India, a sign of
strength, and the vitality of the British Commonwealth."1
Speaking on the Indian Independence Bill in the House of
Lords, Lord Samuel, a Liberal leader, said, "This was not an
hour of defeat but of fulfillment."2 The same idea had been
expressed a few days earlier in words shorn of rhetoric by Field
Marshal Smuts, then Prime Minister of South Africa: "This
does not look like quitting . . ."3
The Indian Independence Act, passed by the British
Parliament in the middle of July 1947 without a division,
pleased its authors-Attlee, Bevin and their Labour Party
colleagues-as well as the Tory leaders including Churchill,
whom President Roosevelt had called "an unreconstructed
Tory," "the last of the Victorians."4
After the Mountbatten plan, proposing partition of India
on religious lines and transfer of power on the basis of dominion
status, had been agreed to by Congress and Muslim League,
Alec Joyce of the India Office wired on 3 June 1947 to
Mountbatten's press attache, Alan Campbell-Johnson:
A packed House of Commons listened with intense interest to
I. Cited in Michael Edwards, The Last Years ofBritish India, (London, 1963)
2. Alan Campbell-Johnson, Mission with Mountbatten, (London, 1951) p.
3. N. Mansergh (Editor-in-Chief), Constitutional Relations Between Britain
and India: The Transfer of Power 1942-7 (Hereafter cited as T.O.P.), in 12
volumes (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1971-1983), X, p. 988.
4. Roosevelt and Churchill: Their Secret Wartime Correspondence (hereafter
Roosevelt and Churchill). ed. by F.L. Loewenheim, H.D. Langley and M.
Jonas, (London, 1975) p. II.
Prime Minister's announcement this afternoon. Proposals and first
reaction from India undoubtedly created profound gratification
among all Parties. Sense of unity and recognition of tremendous
issues and possibilities involved were comparable only with most
historic moments during war . . . . This has been a great day for
us all. ~
Campbell-Johnson recorded that "the American reaction has
been especially enthusiastic.''''
On their part the Indian leaders of both Congress and the
Muslim League exuded happiness and gratitude. Rajendra
Prasad, President of the Indian Constituent Assembly,
described the transfer of power as "the consummation and ful­
fillment of the historic tradition and democratic ideals of the
British race."7
Later, on 16 May 1949, moving his resolution in the
Indian Constituent Assembly for the ratification of the
Commonwealth Prime Ministers' decision to accept the
"sovereign, independent republic" of India as a member of the
Commonwealth of Nations of which the British King or Queen
was the head, Jawaharlal Nehru, the lover of roses and
rose-tinted phrases, said that from the "prickly thorn of
frustration and despair, we have been able to pick the rose of
fulfillment. ""
How was it that all the three parties supposed to be engaged
in a grim struggle with one another retired from it as winners,
The protagonists in the drama of the transfer of power are
5. Campbell-Johnson, op cit, p. 110.
6. Ibid, p. 114.
7. Ibid, p. 159; V.P. Menon, The Transfer of Power in India, (Bombay.
1957) p. 415.
8. Jawaharlal Nehru, Independence and After, (Delhi, 1949) p. 275.
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial
use only.
supposed to have been two: British imperialism (and its
domestic feudal allies) and the Indian people including the
entire bourgeoisie. The following are held almost as axiomatic
truths: first, the contradictions of British imperialism with the
entire Indian bourgeoisie were of an antagonistic nature;
second, the Congress, "an all-class movement" led by the
bourgeoisie, spearheaded the struggle for freedom to establish
a bourgeois nation state; and third, the transfer of power meant
genuine political independence.
In fact, the combination and clash of forces that led to
the transfer of power and partition of the Indian subcontinent
on religious lines were far more complex than are generally
supposed. My contentions are:
First, though the chief protagonists were two (British
imperialism and the Indian people) and though their relative
strength and weakness were the main factors in bringing about
the transfer of power and in determining its character, there
were also other forces-especially U.S. imperialism and the
forces of Socialism and national liberation struggle, as then
represented by the Soviet Union and the revolutions sweeping
China, Vietnam, and Indonesia-which influenced the British
raj's decision to liquidate its direct rule in India.
Second, the dominant section of the Congress leadership
represented the Indian big bourgeoisie, which was comprador
in character. 9 It could place itself at the head of mass
9. Whether the Indian bourgeoisie comprised (and comprises) two sections­
national bourgeoisie and comprador bourgeoisie-is a thorny question. It was
the subject of my article 'The Indian Bourgeoisie and Imperialism" (BCAS,
Vol. 15, No.3), though no exhaustive treatment was possible. Here we shall
refer briefly to a few facts.
Bengal Chemical and Pharmaceutical Works, set up in 1892 by P.C.
Ray, a scientist, manufactured various products including many vital drugs
from basic stages, mainly with indigenous raw materials and without any
foreign help. It pursued the policy of learning and innovating while doing. It
not only developed basic drugs and new processes but designed most of the
machinery for the purpose. Its objective was not merely to make profits but
to harness science and technology for productive purposes and to attain
self-reliance. (See Sudip Chaudhuri, Bengal Chemical: 1892-1977 [mimeo­
graphed], Indian Institute of Management, [Calcutta, n.d.]) It was not the
only firm of this kind, but its character was altogether different from that of
the Petits, Tatas, Goenkas, and Birlas to whom reference has been made in
my article. The former may be called an enterprise of the national bourgeoisie
and the latter compradors.
There were conflicts, both economic and political, between the two
sections. Economically, in the thirties and forties, the national bourgeoisie­
represented by men like Manu Subedar (a small industrialist), K. T. Shah
(Secretary of the National Planning Committee) and their friends (who threw
out tycoons like Sir Purshotamdas Thakurdas, Sir Homi Mody and Sir Phiroze
Sethna from the leadership of the Indian Merchants' Chamber, Bombay, in
the early thirties)-was hostile to foreign capital, demanded immediate
scrapping of the managing-agency system (then the bastion of expatriate foreign
capital and Indian big capital), and condemned collaboration agreements
between them as "illegitimate marriage." See Indian Central Banking Enquiry
Committee 1931, Vol. I, Part II-Minority Report (of Manu Subedar),
(Calcutta, 1931); L. Natarajan, American Shadow Over India, (Bombay, 1952)
pp. 52, 266 (note I); N. N. Mitra, ed., Indian Annual Register, Calcutta, I,
1945, p. 62, Modern Review (Calcutta), Sept. 1945, pp. 128-29; and
K. T.Shah, "Introduction" to Industrial Finance (a National Planning
Committee publication, ed. by K.T. Shah), (Bombay, 1948). On the other
hand, the comprador bourgeoisie allied itself with foreign capital and found
merit in the managing agency system.
Politically, the national bourgeoisie sought to achieve complete
independence through armed struggle while the compradors wanted greater
power and privileges but within the framework of basic dependence on the
imperialists. Its "non-cooperation was only a step towards cooperation." See
G. D. Birla, Bapu: A Unique Association, III (Bombay, 1977) p. 76; B. Pattabhi
movements because the working class and its leadership were
ideologically and politically weak. By making a fetish of "non­
violence" and the "change of heart" of the imperialists, the
Congress leaders saw to it that a genuine anti-imperialist
movement did not develop. Further, from 1945 when World
War II was drawing to an end, the Congress leaders system­
atically helped the raj to suppress the anti-imperialist struggles
of the people.
For British imperialism it was both a retreat
and an advance. It was a retreat because Britain
had to terminate its direct rule. In another sense
it was an advance, for freed of the immediate
worries of direct confrontation with the Indian
people, it would carry on and even intensify its
exploitation of India.
Third, faced with contradictions at home and abroad,
British imperialism found it prudent to stage a withdrawal
through the front door and hand over the direct reins of
administration to its Indian compradors. The purpose was to
ensure preservation of its economic, political and strategic
interests. The end of the direct rule meant the end of Britain's
monopoly possession of India; but the formal empire changed
Sitaramayya, History of the Indian National Congress, I, (Bombay, 1946)
reprint, p. 358. The method of the national bourgeoisie was non-violence in
thought and deed. Gandhi, who played the "dual role of saint for the masses
and champion of big business" (to quote Edgar Snow cited in Birla, p. 269),
told Guy Wint, a British journalist, in 1939: "We cannot become an utterly
independent nation .... And so if we could become partners on equal terms
I want the Indo-British partnership to be permanent." Gandhi also wrote that
"if dominion status was offered, I would take it ... " (Harijan, 16 December
The Congress included within it national bourgeois elements which forced
the dominant section of the leadership (Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Gandhi's
other lieutenants) to formally accept complete independence as the Congress
goal in 1929 and sometimes to make radical pronouncements. In early 1939,
national bourgeois elements and communists rallied around Subhas Bose,
challenged and defeated the Gandhian leadership, then grew panicky and
Outside the Congress, the national bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie
had initiated revolutionary struggles long before mass movements were
launched by the Congress. The revolutionary struggles in Bengal after 1905,
the Ghadar movement, the activities of the Hindustan Republic Association,
the Chittagong uprising, the R.I.N. revolt of February 1946, to mention only
a few, reflected the aspirations of the national bourgeoisie and the petty
bourgeoisie to liberate India through armed struggle. Men like G.D. Birla,
who were very close to the Gandhian leadership, appealed again and again to
the alien rulers to combine with it and crush the "left wing." (Birla, II, pp.
12-14, 44-45, 85).
The Indian national bourgeoisie was economically weak and politically
flabby and vacillating. Here it is worth quoting Mao Tsetung's words: "Why
did forty years of revolution under Sun Vat-sen end in failure? Because in the
epoch of imperialism the petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie cannot
lead any genuine revolution to victory." (Mao Tsehlng, Selected Works, II,
[Peking, 1969] p. 422).
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
The British raj emerged victoriolls out of World War II
but far weaker economically, politically and militarily than the
U.S. and the Soviet Union. Its economic decline which had
started after World War I was hastened by World War II. Much
of its industry was shattered and its capital investments in
Canada and the U.S.A. had been taken over by the latter. For
its postwar reconstruction it was dependent on American
loan-capital. Instead of being a creditor country as in the past,
it had become a debtor.
World War II was the "best of wars" for U.S. monopoly
capital. When the war started, it began to cherish dreams of
building a world-wide informal empire and of fulfilling its
"Manifest Destiny." As James Burnham put it in a 1947 Life
article, what was wanted was "an American Empire which will
be, if not literally world-wide in formal boundaries, capable
of exercising decisive world control."
During the war years there was significant increase in the
U .S. share in India's foreign trade. The imports from the
U.S.A., apart from lend-lease aid, surpassed those from
Britain. But what was more significant is that Indian big capital
had begun to forge close ties with American monopoly capital.
Tatas and Wa1chands had led the way and Birlas, Kasturbhais
and others were looking forward to that happy consummation,
without, of course, neglecting the British connection.
Throughout the war the U.S_ rulers put unrelenting pres­
sure on the British raj to loosen its hold on the empire,
especially India. To bring about the end of India's colonial
status, they did whatever was possible for them to do without
breaking the Anglo-American alliance which they deemed es­
sential to winning the war. The objective of the U.S. ruling
classes was to liquidate the old imperialist powers' monopoly
possession of the colonies, remove all barriers, such as the
"imperial preference" and "empire dollar pool" that impeded
the free movement of U.S. capital and trade, and bring the
colonies into their own informal empire. No wonder that the
British raj very much resented all U. S. attempts at intervention
and found it "intolerable."lo Under the Anglo-U.S. Financial
Agreement of December 1945 the U.S.A. extended a loan to
Britain to assist in her postwar reconstruction on condition that
Britain would end by mid-1947 the empire dollar pool and
eventually the system of imperial preferences. II During the
postwar years the American demand for liquidation of Britain's
direct rule in India was insistent. At the same time, the U. S. A.
urged Britian "not to abandon essential strategic positions in
India" and wanted "to participate in the use and upkeep of
some of these positions. "12
The specter of Communism was haunting the raj. The
emergence of the Soviet Union with its power and political
influence greatly enhanced, the collapse of different reactionary
regimes in Eastern Europe, the advance of the People's
Liberation Army and the expansion of Red bases in China, and
Thefront page ofthe British-owned Evening News oflndia ofFeb. 21. 1985
into an informal empire shared with other imperialist powers
like the U.S.A.
Fourth, the Indian subcontinent, the home of several
nations and nationalities, was partitioned on religious lines into
two states because the Indian comprador bourgeoisie was split
into two hostile sections-one predominantly Hindu (with
which Parsi big capital was allied) and the other Muslim. There
was unequal development among them, and the Muslim
compradors were much weaker than their Hindu counterparts.
Out of the fear of being swept away by much more powerful
Marwari and Gujarati compradors in an India where the
political representatives of the latter would be in direct control
of the state machinery, Muslim compradors backed by Muslim
feudal elements sought to carve out of India a state of their
Lastly, while the roses of fulfillment were plucked by the
imperialists and their compradors, the people felt the thorns.
While the transfer of power and the birth of the two new states
marked the victory of imperialism as well as of the two sections
of the comprador big bourgeoisie, it meant defeat of the Indian
people and was a setback to revolutionary struggles in 'South
Asia and elsewhere. The people lost because, in the absence
of a revolutionary leadership, they rallied behind sections of
the bourgeoisie which were in the camp of imperialism and to
which World War II had opened up new vistas of rapid expan­
sion as underlings of foreign imperialist capital.
10. T.O.P., I, pp. 7-8; II, pp. 969-70; III, pp. 30, 554-56, 690, 699, 792;
Roosevelt and Churchill, p. 74, n. I.
11. Gary R. Hess, America Encounters India, 1941-1947, (Baltimore and
London, 1974), pp. 160, 165, 166, 174.
12. T.O.P., VI, p. 644; VII, p. 931.
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
the anned national liberation struggles in Indo-China and
Indonesia were contributing to the revolutionary ferment in
India and accelerating the change in its political climate. The
national liberation wars in Indo-China and Indonesia, where
the raj rushed troops, including Indian soldiers, to halt the
march of national liberation forces, and the prospect of such
wars in Burma and Malay threatened the foundations of the
British empire. There was great resentment among the Indian
people against the use of Indian troops in Indonesia and a
powerful demand for their withdrawal.
Another contradiction that beset the raj was with its own
people. By the end of the war British youth had become sick
of fighting and felt no inclination to serve in distant lands and
to shed their blood for the sake of the profits of their bourgeoisie.
That is why the British ruling classes were often heard to bewail
the shortage of manpower to preserve the empire. Even those
who joined the anned forces during the war demanded speedy
demobilization and mutinied in some places to realize their
demand. 13
But of all the contradictions with which British imperialism
was faced in the immediate postwar years, the contradiction
with the Indian people was, no doubt, the principal one. While
the years of the war were the best of times for the bourgeoisie,
they were the worst of times for the people. Already impov­
erished, they became victims of indescribable want and misery
as a result of the policies of the government and the profiteering
of traders and industrialists.
The popular anger found its expression almost immediately
after the war. There was an unprecedented upsurge of anti­
imperialist struggles, in which workers, peasants and the urban
petty bourgeoisie, even sections of the Indian navy, anny and
air force, police and lower rungs of the bureaucracy took part,
and anned confrontations were frequent. Describing the mood
of the people in Calcutta in November 1945, Governor Casey
wrote: "Both in North and South Calcutta a feature of the
disturbances comparatively new to Bengal was that the crowds
when fired on largely stood their ground or at most only receded
a little, to return again to the attack. "14
Waves of anti-imperialist struggle rose one after another
in different parts of the subcontinent. The most spectacular and
most significant among them was the uprising in Bombay. The
ratings of the Royal Indian Navy (R.I.N.) rose in revolt first
in Bombay and then in Karachi, Calcutta and Madras. By 22
February 1946 the rebel sailors, were in control of about 22
vessels in Bombay harbor, including the flagship of the British
Vice-Admiral. A total of 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and
20,000 ratings were involved in the struggle. Over a thousand
men in the Royal Indian Air Force camps in Bombay came
out in a sympathy strike. When ordered, Indian soldiers refused
to fire on the R.I.N. ratings. Bombay's workers and youth,
irrespective of the community to which they belonged, stood
by the navy men, carried food to them, erected barricades and
fought with armed policemen and with several British battalions
equipped with tanks and armored cars.
On 22 February. Bombay observed a general strike in the
teeth of the bitter opposition from the top Congress and Muslim
League leaders like Sardar Patel. Jinnah. Chundrigar and S.K.
Patil, who made common cause with the raj and placed
"volunteers" at its service, The entire working class came out
at the call of the Communist Party, and for two days there
were pitched battles on Bombay's streets, in which, accprding
to official estimates, there were about 1500 casualties,
including more than two hundred dead. The men of the navy
refused to be cowed-even by the threat of Admiral Godfrey
(who had flown in bombers) to sink the navy. The glorious
struggle ended in defeat when the "non-violent" might of
Congress and League leaders was added to the anned might
of the British imperialists to crush it.15 What is significant is
that the wall that had been sedulously erected by the raj to
separate the anned services from the people crumbled down.
Significant also was the role the Congress leaders played. More
of that later.
While the transfer of power and the birth of the
two new states marked the victory of imperialism
as weU as ofthe two sections ofthe comprador big
bourgeoisie, it meant defeat of the Indian people
and was a setback to revolutionary struggles in
South Asia and elsewhere. The people lost because,
in the absence of a revolutionary leadership, they
rallied behind sections of the bourgeoisie which
were in the camp of imperialism and to which
World War II had opened up new vistas of rapid
expansion as underlings of foreign imperialist
Workers rose up everywhere despite the opposition of
Congress and League leaders, factory workers, railwaymen,
posts and telegraph workers, bank employees, even policemen
in various places. In his diary under the date 19 February 1946,
Wavell noted:
A day of alarms but not excursions. I saw ~orter [Secretary.
Government of India, Home Department], all for capitulation to
the I.N.A.; Bewoor [Secretary, Posts and Air Dept.] about a postal
strike; Carr [A.O.C.-in-C.] about R.I.A.F. mutiny; Griffin [Chief
Commissioner of Railways] and Conran-Smith [Secretary, War
Transport Department] about a railway strike; and finally the
C-in-C., most gloomy of all, about the R.I.N. mutiny at Bombay
and the I.N.A. trials. What a cheerful day-prospect or reality of
three mutinies and two strikes!l.
The anti-imperialist struggle was not confined to cities and
15. Ibid. pp. 1048. \055-56. 1076. 1080-84. According to a leading
participant in the struggle. the total number of ratings involved in the struggle
in different places was about 50,000 and the entire navy was affected. See
also B. C. Dutt. The Mutiny of the Innocents. (Bombay, 1971).
13. T.O.P., VI, p. \055. fn.
14. Ibid, p. 725.
16. Wavell: The Viceroy's Journal. ed. by Penderel Moon. (Delhi. 1977) p.
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towns; it spread to remote rural areas. In Telangana in the
Hyderabad State a peasant struggle started in 1946 which turned
into a liberation struggle and out of which emerged a peasant
anny and liberated areas. (Its fight against Nehru's anny after
the transfer of power and its withdrawal in 1951 is a story into
which we shall not enter here.) All these struggles showed that,
so far as the oppressed people were concerned, Congress and
Muslim League were on the same side of the barricade as the raj.
When the Cabinet Mission came in March 1946 and met
the Viceroy's Executive Council, Sir Edward Benthall, a
member of the Council, said that "the Council was unanimous
that a change of Government at the Centre was imperative .
. . . It [the Council's lack of confidence] is due to the
uncertainty of Indian troops and police to whom they must
look for defence and support in the future. ",7
Replying to Wavell, Pethick-Lawrence, the Secretary of
State for India, wrote on 25 November 1946:
anything in the nature of reconquest and retention of India by force
[would not be] practicable from a political, military or economic
point of view. Politically our party would not support such a policy
nor do we believe that it would be practicable from an international
point of view. From a military point of view we have not the
forces sufficient to embark upon the holding down of India as a
whole ... Nor from an economic point of view can we
contemplate the great expenditure that would be entailed ... "'8
The postwar situation in India was, indeed, revolutionary.
The rulers could not rule in the old way and the mass of the
people understood "the impossibility of living in the old way."
But no revolutionary leadership, ideologically and politically
mature, had emerged. In the absence of such a leadership the
domestic class forces hostile to the people were far from
isolated. On the contrary, the people cherished illusions about
the goals of the political representatives of those very
classes-the Congress and League leaders-who were out to
strike a bargain with imperialism.
In his letter to King George VI, dated 22 March 1946,
Wavell, referring to the happenings in India, wrote: "It is a
sorry tale of misfortune and of folly. Perhaps the best way to
look at it is that India is in the birth-pangs of a new order.
..."'9 But the new order did not emerge. What emerged was
a mockery of it.
The British imperialists regarded India as "the essential
linchpin in the structure of the Commonwealth." Their main
aim was to transfer power to "friendly hands" -that is, to the
classes that had a symbiotic relationship with British capital
and could be trusted to preserve and further its economic,
political and strategic interests-and to enmesh the new state
or states in a net of Commonwealth ties,>o in short, to convert
the colony into a neo-colony or semi-colony. The British Chiefs
of Staff and the G.H.Q. (India) held that "from the military
point of view, it was as nearly vital as anything can be to
ensure that India remains within the Commonwealth." The
Chiefs of Staff Committee repeatedly emphasized this point.
From the military point of view, and on the grounds of our future
strategy and the security of the British Commonwealth, our aim
must be to retain India constitutionally within the British
Commonwealth of Nations, and to direct all our endeavour towards
persuading her to this end. If in th,!se endeavours we were
successful, a formal Treaty would probably be unnecessary, and
our strategic requirements could be met by Staff conversations and
liaison arrangements similar to those in force with the other
Dominions. 21
The Dominion statesmen agreed that India's continuance
in the Commonwealth was extremely important to the interests
of Britain and the dominions. 22 The British imperialists also
hoped that in the event of India deciding to remain in the
Commonwealth, its example would influence other colonies to
do so when they were "eligible for independence."23
To forge a new kind of relationship with India under which
their economic, political and strategic interests would remain
secure, the raj followed a strategy which was twofold: first, to
keep the Indian leaders engaged in negotiations about the future
and sow illusions among the people, while defusing the revo­
lutionary situation and crushing all future struggles; and
second, to divert the anti-imperialist struggles along the
channels of communalism.
As early as September 1943, Viceroy-designate Wave II
and most of the members of the India-Burma Committee of
the War cabinet, including Deputy Prime Minister Attlee,
realized the efficacy of negotiations and of a negotiated
settlement with the Indian leaders, for "our main aim must be
to keep India within the Commonw~~alth."24 The move fell
through because of Churchill's opposition. Anticipating unrest
among the Indian people in postwar days and stressing the need
for opening negotiations with Indian leaders to forestall mass
struggles, Wavell wrote to Churchill on 24 October 1944: "If
we can secure India as a friendly partner in the British
Commonwealth our predominant influence in these countries
[such as Burma and Malaya] will, I think, be assured; with a
lost and hostile India, we are likely to be reduced in the East
to the position of commercial bag-men."25
With the end of the war in Europe, negotiations opened
at Simla in June-July 1945 with the object of reconstituting the
Viceroy's Executive Council as a step "towards a settlement."
Earlier, in November 1944, the proposal made by Bulabhai
Desai (leader of the Congress Party in the Central Legislative
Assembly) to the Viceroy with the approval of Liaquat Ali
Khan (Jinnah's deputy and General Secretary, All India Muslim
League) for the reconstitution of the Viceroy's Executive
Council had suggested parity between Congress and Muslim
League. The raj changed this to parity between Caste Hindus
and Muslims, a cunning maneuver which brought the
communal question to the center of the political stage. The
17. T.O.P., VII, p. 7.
18. Ibid, IX, p. 174. The tenos of this reply were agreed at a meeting between
Prime Minister Attlee, Pethick-Lawrence, Stafford Cripps and officials of the
India Office. See also ibid, p. 68 for Attlee's Notes.
19. Ibid, VI. p. 1233.
20. Ibid, VI, pp. 561,659-60,666; VII, p. 591; VIII, p. 224; IX, pp. 307,
940, 972; X, pp. 329, 965, 974-5.
VIII, pp. 53-7, 348-50, 547, 646,659; IX, p. 975.
X, pp. 829,949,988,989,997.
p. 974; also p. 965.
IV, pp. 333-38, 340-44,365-69.
V, p. 127.
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Anti-imperialist demonstration of Feb. II. 1946 in Calcutta. The next day a
general strike began
Simla conference subsequently foundered on the rock of the
Muslim League's claim to nominate all the Muslim members
of the Council; and E. Jenkins, then Private Secretary to the
Viceroy, strongly suspected "that there has been official support
for Jinnah' s obstinacy. "26
From the standpoint of the British imperialists, the Simla
Conference was far from a failure. As we shall see, it
successfully pulled the top Congress leaders into an infonnal
alliance with the raj to extinguish the flames of anti-imperialist
struggle. Second, it gave fresh ammunition to the Hindu and
Muslim communalists who, wittingly or not, helped the raj by
diverting anti-imperialist hatred into the communal channel.
Summing up the views of the Governors expressed at their
conference held on 1 and 2 August 1945, Wavell said, "We
should endeavour to retain the initiative and divert political
energy into legitimate channels. "27
Soon after the victory of the Labour Party in the British
general elections, which was hailed enthusiastically by the
Congress and described by Hindustan Times as "the downfall
of India's oppressors,"28 elections were announced in New
Delhi for the central and provincial legislative assemblies on
the basis of the old franchise (less than one percent of the
population for the fonner and about ten percent for the latter).
There followed a veritable deluge of "interesting negotia-
26. Ibid, XII, p. 797; see also V.P. Menon, op cit, p. 214.
27. T.O.P., VI, p. 19.
28. Ibid, pp. 1-2.
tions about the future." A British parliamentary delegation
toured India in January 1946. Close on its heels came the
Cabinet Mission which had hectic rounds of negotiations for
more than three months. On 16 May it produced a plan which
proposed the creation of three semi-independent sub-federa­
tions-one comprising predominantly Hindu provinces and the
other two comprising Muslim-majority provinces in the
northwest and northeast of India-within a loose all-India
federation with a weak center. Interestingly, Assam with
Muslims fonning about 33 or 34 percent of the population was
tagged to Muslim-majority Bengal. If it was intended by the
Mission to stoke the communal fire, the purpose was well
served. It was the fight over the interpretation of a sub-clause
in the plan concerning the grouping of provinces that led to
the Muslim League's call for "direct action"-and virtual
communal war-to force the Congress to concede the Pakistan
"Amidst these 'summit talks,' " wrote Michael Brecher,
"the poison of communalism penetrated deeper into the body
politic of India. "29 It was the systematic policy of imperialism
to drive a wedge between Congress and League (both its own
"creations," as Gandhi said in a letter to Stafford CrippS)lO and
to stir up and exploit communal tension.
Wavell stated on 30 May 1946: "We must at all costs
29. Michael Brecher, Nehru: A Political Biography, (London, 1959) pp.
30. Sudhir Ghosh, Gandhi's Emissary, (London, 1967) p. 159.
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avoid becoming embroiled with both Hindu and Muslim at
once. "3\ The Secretary of State for India was of the same view:
"We cannot allow ourselves to get into position in which
Muslim League and Congress are both in opposition. "32
In the conditions created by World War II the
prospect of dominating the Indian Ocean region
economically and politically, under the umbrella
ofimperUdist powers like the U.K. and the U.S.A.,
became quite alluring to the Indian big
bourgeoisie. It is the vision of becoming a zonal
power as underlings of the imperialists that
impelled the Congress leaders to reject an
undivided India with a weak center. And they must
share the responsibility for the tragedy.
On 24 January 1947 the Director of the Intelligence
Bureau, Government of India, noted:
The game so far has been well played, in that (a) both
Congress and the League have been brought into the Central
Government; (b) the Indian problem has been thereby thrust into
its appropriate plane of communalism. . . . Grave communal
disorder must not disturb us into action which would reproduce
anti-lfritish agitation. The latter may produce an inordinately
dangerous situation and leads us nowhere. The former is a natural.
if ghastly process tending in its own way to the solution of the
Indian problem."
The "ghastly process" was hardly a natural one. It was, on the
contrary, as the earlier portion of the note gleefully claims,
part of the imperialist "game" which the raj and its collaborators
"played." And far from solving any problem, it plagues the
people of the subcontinent even today.
The fact is, there was a revolutionary unity among the
people in 1945 and 1946, even in 1947 after communal
holocausts had been engineered. On 27 November 1945,
Wavell informed Pethick-Lawrence: "Casey [Bengal Governor]
was impressed by the very strong anti-British feeling behind
the whole demonstration [in Calcutta and Howrah in November
1945] and considers the whole situation still very explosive
and dangerous."34
The revolutionary unity of the people displayed in Bombay
in February 1946 alarmed the imperialists and the Hindu and
Muslim compradors. Gandhi denounced it as "unholy combina­
tion" between Hindus and Muslims and preferred to die rather
31. T.O.P., VII, p. 735.
32. Ibid, VIII, p. 162; also p. 177.
33. Ibid, IX, pp. 542-3. Copies of this note were sent to the private secretaries
of Attlee, Lord Alexander and Stafford Cripps.
34. Ibid, VI, p. 553.
than see India delivered over to "the rabble."3s Within less than
a year a qualitative change in the situation was brought about
by the skillful moves of the raj and its collaborators.
Speaking at the Subjects Committee meeting of the Meerut
Session of the Congress, held in November 1946, Ashok Mehta
said: "A year ago, an Englishman could not show his face in
Bombay or Calcutta; today he alone moves freely and even
Indians move in English dress."36 Alan Campbell-Johnson
wrote on 1 June 1947 in a mood of exultation: "It should be
noted that the fury is internal and fratricidal and that the British
are probably more popular with both Hindus and Moslems than
at any time in living memory."37
On 20 February 1947 Attlee announced in Parliament their
"definite intention" to transfer "power to responsible Indian
hands" by June 1948. The imperialists were afraid that the
communal Frankenstein they had raised might cause irreparable
damage to their long-term plans for a "friendly and stable
India." But they were also afraid of Communism. When Attlee
asked Mountbatten to become the Viceroy of India, he told
him that if power was not transferred quickly, they might find
themselves "handing India over not simply to civil war, but to
political movements of a definitely totalitarian character."'·
Wavell was replaced by Mountbatten, for the former, as Attlee
told the king, lacked "the finesse to negotiate the next step
when we must keep the two Indian parties friendly to us all
the time. "39
In about a month and a half afller assuming office as
Viceroy on 23 March 1947, Mountbatten devised a plan the
outline of which had been prepared by Reforms Commissioner
V.P. Menon and Congress boss Patel in late December 1946
or early January 1947.4() The plan proposed transfer of power
to Indian hands on the basis of dominion status and partition
of India on communal lines. It was formally accepted by
Congress and League on 3 June, when Mountbatten fixed 15
August as the date of the transfer of power. In less than two
months and a half this vast subcontinent was partitioned,
boundaries demarcated, assets divided and two new dominions
brought into existence!
Mountbatten himself had told the Governors' Conference
held in April that the "partition of India would be a most serious
potential source of war."41 J.D. Tyson, the Secretary to the
Bengal Governor, wrote to people in England on 5 July 1947:
"Mountbatten is a hustler; ever since he came out he has pursued
shock tactics .... I believe, now, we shall withdraw in fairly
peaceful conditions-whatever may happen after we have
gone.... I think there will be very unsettled conditions in
India for some time to come ... but the trouble will be
primarily between Hindus and Muslims·-not anti-European. "42
And Penderal Moon, a high British official then serving in
India, wrote: "So with a quick unprecedented unanimity all
35. The Collected Works oJMahatma Gandhi, Vol. 83, (Delhi, 1981)p. 304.
36. T.O.P., IX, p. 133.
37. Alan Campbell-Johnson, op cit, p. 98.
38. Ibid, p. 17.
39. John W. Wheeler-Bennett, King George VI, pp. 709-10; cited in B.B.
Misra, The Indian Political Parties, (Delhi, 1976) p. 625.
40. V.P. Menon, op cit, pp. 358-59.
41. T.O.P., X, p. 251.
42. Ibid, XI, p. 940.
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[the raj, Congress and League-the three parties to the
settlement] set forth together on a path leading straight to mass
slaughter [and mass migration]."43
At the same time a parallel process was going on. Speaking
on 4 July 1947 on the Indian Independence Bill, the Secretary
of State for India told journalists that there would be a new
partnership between the East and the West which would bring
healthy results for the whole world. 44 Indeed, the old political
relationship between imperialism and the Indian comprador
bourgeoisie was yielding place to a new kind of political
relationship that would be beneficial to the imperialist system
as a whole.
The imperialist game could be so well played because
Congress and Muslim League were willing participants in it.
Though there was a savage "war of succession" between them,
their policies vis-a.-vis the raj were complementary to the British
Even before the end of the war, G.D. Birla, the "mentor
of the Indian capitalist class" (to quote Bipan Chandra) as well
as of many top Congress leaders, was anxious to open political
negotiations and was assuring the raj of their co-operation.4~
In his interviews with a correspondent of the News Chronicle
and subsequent press statements after his release from detention
in the Aga Khan Palace, Gandhi declared that his object was
"to help and not hinder the Allied war effort." He abjured any
"intention of offering Civil Disobedience," condemned sabo­
tage and underground activities and instructed underground
political workers to give themselves up to the raj's police.~
The Congress's appraisal of the postwar situation was
similar to that of the British. Bhulabhai Desai, leader of the
Congress party in the Central Legislative Assembly, pleaded
with Wavell early in January 1945 that "the continuation of
the present situation was more likely than not to lead to an
upheaval. ".7 Together with the raj, Congress leaders wanted
to build beforehand a dam against the tide of postwar mass
upheaval they anticipated. So, in mid-November 1944, with
Gandhi's blessings and Liaquat Ali Khan's approval, Bhulabhai
made his proposal (known as Desai-Liaquat pact) for the
reconstitution of the Viceroy's Executive Council "under the
existing constitution from members of the existing legislature"
to be ultimately selected by the Viceroy. 48 On 30 January 1945
Wavell informed the Secretary of State for India that "Desai's
proposals fit in with those I submitted months ago ..... "49
During these negotiations, G.D. Birla saw the Viceroy's
Private Secretary and, as Wavell wired to Amery, Birla "was
probably sent by Gandhi" and "Birla obviously thought
43. Penderal Moon, Divide and Quit, (London, 1961) p. 70.
44. V.P. Menon, op cit, p. 391.
45. T.O.P., IV, p. 779; V, pp. 236,476; Wavell: The Viceroy's Journal, p.
46. B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, The History of the Indian National Congress,
Vol. II, (Bombay, 1947) pp. 617, 620-22; T.O.P., IV, pp. 1032, 1086, 1102,
47. Ibid, V, p. 424.
48. Wavell: The Viceroy's Journal, p. 101; T.O.P., V, pp. 230-31,400-1,
424,476-77,787, 1126.
49. Ibid. p. 481.
Coalition Government at centre under present constitution by
no means impossible. He said he was satisfied that Dominion
status should be the aim and not repeat not complete
independence. He thought Gandhi was now of the same
opinion. "50
When Wavell convened the Simla Conference after the
war in Europe had ended, the Congress, as V. P. Menon wrote,
came in for cooperation without any conditions.~1 They
accepted the Viceroy's right to select members of the
reconstituted Executive Council and his right to overrule any
decision of the Council. Before agreeing to cooperate, Gandhi
and the Congress Working Committee did not even demand
the release of Congress prisoners or removal of the ban on the
Congress and allied organizations. On the other hand, they
were prepared to join the Viceroy's Executive Council "on the
basis that they would whole-heartedly co-operate in supporting
and carrying through the war against Japan to its victorious
conclusion." (That would not militate against the creed of
non-violence devoutly cherished by Gandhi and the Congress.)
Though the Simla Conference failed, "the contacts
established between the Congress and the Government," wrote
Congress President Azad to Wavell, "had largely allayed past
bitterness, and marked the beginning of a new chapter of
confidence and goodwill."~2
After the Simla Conference was over, Wavell "assured
them [Gandhi and Azad] that even if a final constitutional
settlement failed to materialize, he would see to it that an
interim Government is formed at the centre out of the elements
prepared to cooperate." He wanted that the Congress leaders
"should see to it that a peaceful atmosphere is preserved in the
country . "~3
To refurbish the image of the Congress, which had been
somewhat tarnished by Gandhi's repudiation of all responsibil­
ity for the "Quit India" movement, his condemnation of
sabotage and underground activities associated with it, and his
instruction to underground workers to surrender,~ Nehru, Patel
and a few others, especially Nehru, did some saber-rattling
during the election campaign towards the end of 1945. This
perturbed Wavell and some high British officials though the
Secretary of State for India considered it as part of
electioneering." G.D. Birla, who served as a valuable contact
between the raj and top Congress leaders like Gandhi and Patel,
hastened to assure the Secretary of State for India and Stafford
Cripps that there "is no political leader including Jawaharlal
who wants to see any crisis or violence" and that "everyone is
anxious for settlement." He explained that "even leaders are
often led."56
Immediately after the upheaval in Calcutta in November
1945, Gandhi and other Congress leaders visited the city.
Gandhi had a series of eight interviews with Bengal Governor
Casey, who gave interviews also to Nehru and Patel. And the
50. Ibid, p. 236.
51. Ibid, XII, pp. 790-91.
52. Ibid, VI, p. 455.
53. Argus, "A Delhi Diary," Eastern Economist lEE], 10 May 1946, p. 786;
Indian Annual Register (ed. by N.N. Mitra), 1945, II, p. 147.
54. B. B. Misra, op cit, pp. 501-2.
55. T.O.P., VI, p. 482.
56. T.O.P .• VI, 615.
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popular support. If Congress will take responsibility they will
realize that firm control of unruly elements is necessary and
they may put down Communists and try to curb their own left
The Congress leaders were anxious to play their part. In
August, the Congress Working Committee passed a resolution
condemning the growing lack of discipline and disregard of
obligations on the part of workers.· s On 5 August Wave II
reported to Pethick-Lawrence that, according to an unimpeach­
able source, "Patel. ... was convinced that the Congress must
enter the Government to prevent chaos spreading in the country
as the result of labour unrest. "66 Next day Wavell again wired
to Pethick-Lawrence: "I think it is quite likely that Congress
[if it joins the government at the center] would decide to take
steps fairly soon against the communists as otherwise the labour
situation will get even worse. "61 So. Congress leaders were
taken into the Viceroy's Executive Council (termed the Interim
Government) to serve as imperialism's shield and to protect
its interests from the popular anger.
The expectations of the raj were fulfilled. On 2 I January
1947 Wavell informed Pethick-Lawrence that searches, still
then incomplete, had been conducted and that the Congress
governments of Madras and Bombay were taking strong action
against the Communists."­
On 27 February 1947 the Bombay Governor reported to
Wavell that Bombay's Congress ministry "are determined to
handle the communist and other extreme Left Wing elements
firmly, and are bringing forward this session a new Public
Safety Measures Bill which re-enacts all our Ordinances in
full . . . . "69 The Bombay Governor also wrote on 2 April 1947
to Viceroy Mountbatten that the Congress ministers of Bombay
felt that "their real opponents are the Congress Socialists and
the Communists" -not the British imperialists.
At its twenty-second session held in Calcutta in February
1947, the All-India Trade Union Congress expressed its
concern at the "indiscriminate firing by the police on workers"
in Coimbators. Golden Rock, Kolar Gold Fields, Ratlam,
Amalner and Kanpur (all of which were located in Congress­
ruled provinces), "resulting in the death of more than 50 persons
including women and children and injury to more than 400."
After referring to "the suppression of civil liberties," ban on
labor meetings, arrests and internment of trade union workers.
and destruction of union properties, the resolution added: "In
Madras alone, hundreds of labour workers are in jail, and in
some places, Section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Code has
been applied demanding security of good behaviour from
labour leaders. "11
The AITUC also protested against "the recent amendments
to the Bombay District Police Act and the enactment of
Congress Working Committee met in Calcutta and proclaimed
once again its faith in non-violence. On 27 December 1945
Wavell noted that "Indian business magnates . . . are anxious
for a solution without conflict and disorder. "51
In many of his speeches Nehru pointed out to the rulers
the need for an early, peaceful settlement. 58 While assuring the
raj that "every attempt will be made to arrive at some suitable
compromise," Nehru decried the "sporadic violence" of the
people and told them that "British rule in India is a thing of
the past. "59 According to Nehru, any delay on the part of
British imperialism to arrive at a compromise with the Congress
would be disastrous, both for imperialism and for the class
Nehru represented. After the R.I.N. revolt, Nehru and Patel
condemned at a mass meeting held in Bombay on 26 February
1946 "the mass violence in Bombay during the past four days."
Next day, at an interview to the press, Nehru thundered, "The
R.I.N. Central Strike Committee had no business to issue such
an appeal [to the city of Bombay to observe a sympathy strike].
I will not tolerate this kind of thing."60
Birla's Eastern Economist stated:
In fact, whenever they [Congress leadersJ spoke, it was to
denounce rebellion, mutiny, indiscipline. It was Sardar Patel's
intervention that brought R.I.N. mutiny to an end. Ghandhiji's
statement on the same brought out for the first time in recent history
a chorus of unstinted praise from every section of the British Press.
Maulana Azad denounced unequivocally the recurring disturbances
at Calcutta.... In fact the fear was and is that if the Government
failed to accomplish a negotiated transfer of power, even the
Congress would not be able to check the deluge that would follow.
India would cease to be a politically stable area and this would
knock out the international foundations of the British Empire."·'
The Birla organ's tender concern for the international
foundations of the British empire is worth noting.
Despite the shootings and other repressive measures,
despite the communal tension that was steadily being built up
and the other efforts of the Congress and League, new
struggles, especially police and military revolts and workers'
strikes which often turned political, continued to break out in
different parts of India.
Towards the end of March 1946, Turnbull, Secretary to
the Cabinet Mission to India, wrote to the Permanent
Under-Secretary of State for India: "The only hope is that the
big boys of Congress and the League are said to be much alarmed
lest their followers break loose and of Russia."62 At the end of
July 1946 the India and Burma Committee of the British
Cabinet concluded that if "some positive action" was not taken
"without delay," the initiative might pass from His Majesty's
Government. The postal strike and the threatened railway strike
were symptoms of a serious situation which might rapidly
deteriorate."6) Wave II agreed and wired to Pethick-Lawrence:
"The most urgent need is for a Central Government with
64. Ibid, p. 155.
65. Note on Labor by J. B. Kripalani, A.LC.C. 02611946; cited in Sumit
57. Ibid, p. 687; see also p. 2.
Sarkar, Modern India /885-1947, (Delhi, 1983) p. 429.
58. lawaharlal Nehru, Selected Works (hereafter SW). XIV, [New Delhi,
66. T.O.P., VIII, pp. 190-91.
1981]) pp. 141,265,459.
67. Ibid, p. 194.
59. Ibid, XIV, pp. 135, 254,493,496,497; T.O.P., VI, ll18.
68. Ibid, IX, pp. 524-25; see also p. 575.
60. Nehru, SW, XV, pp. 4, 13; T.O.P., VI, p. 1083.
69. Ibid, p. 822.
61. Argus, "A Delhi Diary," EE, 10 May 1946, p. 786.
70. Ibid, X, p. 87.
62. T.O.P., VD, p. 72.
71. All-India Trade Union Congress, Report: Twenty-Second Session,
63. Ibid, VIn, p. 150.
(Calcutta, 1947) p. 77.
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ordinance in the provinces of Punjab, Madras, Bengal, United
Provinces and Central Provinces under which persons can be
arrested, externed or detained without trial." It also condemned
the Congress governments of Madras, Bombay and the Central
Provinces for detaining trade unionists in jail without trial and
for interning some of them. 72
As part of their onslaught, the Congress launched a vicious
political campaign against the Communists in order to isolate
them politically. When the Congress leaders were themselves
playing the imperialist game, they accused the Communists of
having co-operated with the government during the war after
the Nazi attack upon the Soviet Union!,3
The tragic fact is that when India stood at the crossroads
of history, the Communist Party would give only hesitant and
feeble leadership to the people. It failed miserably to fulfill the
task that history had given it. Instead of clarifying the minds
of workers and peasants about the true character of the Congress
and League leaders, it only befogged them; instead of freeing
the masses from the influence of the comprador bourgeoisie,
it only strengthened it.
The aims of Congress and Muslim League, despite the
fierce fight between themselves, fit in perfectly with the aim
of British imperialism. They, too, were keen on retaining close
ties with it in the form of dominion status or membership of
the Commonwealth,'4 which Nehru himself had described in
the thirties as "an Indianised edition (with British control behind
the scenes) of the present order. "1S
On 8 May 1947 Mountbatten communicated to the British
cabinet that Patel and Nehru had indicated "a desire for a form
of early Dominion Status (but under a more suitable name)"
and added: "This is the greatest opportunity ever offered to the
Empire. . . . "'6 At a meeting with the Viceroy and his staff on
10 May, Nehru said that he "himself was most anxious, apart
from sentimental reasons, to have the closest possible relations
with the British Commonwealth . . . . He did not intend to talk
about 'Dominion Status' openly because of the many
suspicions. He wanted to prepare the ground.""
In the record of his interview with Krishna Menon
(Nehru's emissary) on 23 May, Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State for India and Burma, Henderson, noted: "I gained the
impression that those for whom he speaks are desperately
anxious to maintain the closest possible nexus with the United
Kingdom. He rather plaintively stated that they would be hard
pressed by their own followers as having sold out to the
British. . . ."'8
72. Ibid, p. 78.
73. B. B. Misra. or cit. p. 537.
74. T.O.P., p. 236; Wavell: The Viceroy's Journal, p. 219 (G.D. Birla and
Devdas Gandhi, especially Birla, often acted as Gandhi's unofficial emissary);
V.P. Menon, op cit, pp. 358·59; T.O.P., IX, p. 890; X, pp. 13,312,320.
75. lawaharlal Nehru, An Autobiography, (New Delhi, 1982) (first published
in 1936), p. 137.
76. T.O.P., X, p. 699.
77. Ibid, p. 735; see also pp. 829, 897·98.
78. Ibid, p. 962.
The Muslim league was no match for the Congress in the
art of double talk-saying one thing in private and the opposite
thing in public. Because of the weakness of the class it
represented, it wanted the raj to stay 10nger.79 When transfer
of power in the immediate future became a certainty. Jinnah
appealed to Wavell that the British should "give them their
own bit of country, let it be as small as we [the British] liked.
but it must be their own, and they would live on one meal a
day, etc."80
The tragic fact is that when India stood at the
crossroads of history, the Communist Party would
give only hesitant and feeble leadership to the
people. It failed miserably to fulfiU the task that
history had given it. Instead ofclarifying the minds
of workers and peasants about the true character
of the Congress and League leaders, it only
befogged them; instead offreeing the masses from
the influence of the comprador bourgeoisie it only
strengthened it.
Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan proposed again and again
that after its establishment Pakistan should be allowed to join
the British Commonwealth. 8 ! On 26 April 1947 Jinnah told
Mountbatten that it was not a question of asking to be admitted,
it was a question of not being kicked out. He referred to
Churchill's assurance to him and said that "it was quite clear
to him that the raj could not kick them out. "82
On 23 May Attlee wired to the Dominion Prime Ministers:
They [the Congress leaders] said that though, in order to
secure assent of their party, they would have publicly to stress fact
that it is inherent in Dominion status that Dominion can secede
from Commonwealth whenever it wishes, in their view Hindustan
would not ultimately leave the Commonwealth, once Dominion
status had been accepted.
This most unexpected development opens up new possibility
of whole of India, although divided into two or possibly three
independent states, remaining in the Commonwealth after the
effective transfer of power has taken place .... Example set by
India would be likely to influence Burma, and probably later other
parts of the Empire to remain in the Commonwealth.
I must emphasize the need for extreme secrecy on this matter
because if it became known that Congress leaders had privately
encouraged this idea, the possibility of their being able to bring
their party round to it would be serious[ly] jeopardized. 83
79. Ibid,
80. Ibid,
81. Ibid,
82. Ibid,
83. Ibid,
VI, p. 862; VII, pp. 285, 684; IX, 54, 95.
IX, p. 109; see also X, pp. 102, 300.
VI, pp. 798·99; IX, pp. 261, 797; X, pp. 201, 300, 357.
X, 453.
X, 974·75; see also p. 965.
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Churchill, "the unreconstructed Tory," was quite happy.
He promised Mountbatten that if he "could achieve Dominion
status for both Hindustan and Pakistan, the whole country
would be behind" them and "the Conservative Party would
help to rush the legislation through."B4
Gandhi, too, was happy. He told Mountbatten that "even
during the war he had expressed himself as not being against
it [dominion status]" and sent him a cutting from Harijan as
a proof. 85
The Congress and League leaders had reasons to be
"desperately anxious to maintain the closest possible nexus
with the United Kingdom," for without the assistance of the
imperialists the Indian comprador bourgeoisie could neither
thrive nor even survive. Quite rightly did Nehru say in May
1949 on his return after attending the Commonwealth Prime
Ministers' Conference in London that "We join the Common­
wealth, obviously because we think it is beneficial to us and
to certain causes in the world that we wish to advance. "86
A political settlement would have been easier and quicker
if there were two parties to it. Instead of two, there were
three-the raj, Congress and Muslim League. Encouraged by
the raj and reacting against the communalism of the Hindu
elite, the Muslim elite had earlier demanded and obtained
separate electorates, reservation of seats in legislatures, and so
forth. It should be noted that both Hindu and Muslim
communalism and casteism thrived and stilI thrive in conditions
of semi-feudalism prevailing in India. Egged on by the British
imperialists and exasperated by the dictatorial powers of
Gandhi, Patel and their closest confidants in the Congress­
especially of Gandhi - the League raised the demand for
partition of India on communal lines in March 1940, when the
end of the direct British rule was in sight. And the demand
snowballed, at first with the help of the raj. 81
The demand for Pakistan was neither raised by the Muslim
masses nor was it a demand for their emancipation, as suggested
by some people who usually lump together Muslims belonging
to different classes and nations of India. The fate of the Muslim
"hewers of wood and drawers of water" was no different from
that of their Hindu counterparts, who could derive little comfort
from the fact that there were more Hindu landlords, usurers
and merchants to fleece them than their Muslim counterparts.
The raj, which at first encouraged the idea of Pakistan, could
hardly be accused either of having any desire to liberate the
Muslim masses.
Pakistan was the demand of the big Muslim compradors
(Ispahani, Habib, Sir Rafiuddin Adamji, Sir Abdulla Haroon)
who wanted a separate state where they could thrive by using
84. Ibid, X, p. 945.
85. Ibid, XI, p. 132.
86. Nehru, Independence and After, p. 275.
87. Choudhry Khaliquzzaman, Pathway to Pakistan, (Lahore, 1961) pp.
204-11; also pp. 233, 257, 266-70; Uma Kaura (Muslims and Indian
Nationalism, (New Delhi, 1977) pp. 147-49, 170. The British Cabinet's offer
of March-April 1942 contained, according to Secretary of State for India
Amery, "the Pakistan cuckoo's egg." T.O.P., I, p. 396; see also pp. 468,
474,477; M.A.H. Ispahani, "Factors leading to the Partition of British India"
in C. H. Philips and M. D. Wainwright, eds, The Partition of India, (London,
1970) p. 345 (for Cripps' assurance to Jinnah).
the state machinery, untrammelled by competition with the
more powerful Gujarati and Marwari compradors. 88 Seeking
their own "emancipation," they invented the "two nation
theory" and raised the slogan of "Islam in danger" to rally
Muslims behind their demand. In semi-feudal conditions and
in the absence of revolutionary mass organizations, they could
sway the Muslims as Hindu and Sikh chauvinists did the Hindus
and Sikhs. After the emergence of Pakistan the Muslim masses
have continued to be in poverty and misery, while the Pakistan
state machinery has minted big Muslim industrialists, whom
Gustav Papanek calls "robber barons," out of those who were
mainly traders in undivided India. 89 The result has been, in the
words of M.A.H. Ispahani, that: "Today one finds an array of
industrialists-big and small-in our country. The perform­
ance of some of the big Pakistani industrialists compares
favourably with that of the well-known giants of India such as
Tata, Birla, Dalmia and Mafatlal."90
Gandhi and the Congress wanted an undivided India if
they could possibly have it through negotiations with the raj,
and they resorted till the end to maneuvers to fulfill that object.
But almost from the time the Muslim League raised the demand
for partition on religious lines, Gandhi and the Congress
accepted it in principle and went on declaring that they would
not coerce any unwilling part (meaning a Muslim-majority
area) to remain within India. 91
Interestingly enough, it was G. O. Birla (who was very
close to Gandhi, Patel, and Rajendra Prasad) who proposed
partition of India on religious lines at least as early as 11
January 1938, more than two years before the League raised
the demand. He wrote to Gandhi's secretary:
"The chief difficulty [preventing an agreement with the raj]
still seems to be the Hindu-Muslim question .... I wonder why
it should not be possible to have two federations, one of Muslims
and another of Hindus.... I fear if anything is going to check
our progress, it is the Hindu-Muslim question-not the English­
man, but our own internal quarrels. 92
Clearly, neither the Hindu nor the Muslim big bourgeois
considered the raj as an impediment to his progress.
The Congress-League "war of succession" was not over
the question of Pakistan or the principle of partition on
communal lines but over the content of the proposed Pakistan.
In his reply, dated 16 July 1942, to G. D. Birla's letter
advocating such partition, Gandhi's secretary Mahadev Desai
wrote: "Bapu [Gandhi] has given it [Birla's letter of 14 July]
careful attention. . . . The question is not of Pakistan or
88. M.A.H. Ispahani, ibid, pp. 356-69; T.O.P., VI, pp. 392,732; VIII, 199;
89. Gustav Papanek, Pakistan's Development, (Cambridge, Mass.) 1967, pp.
90. M.A.H. Ispahani, op cit, p. 359.
91. Gandhi, "A Baffling Situation," April 1940; cited in D.G. Tendulkar,
Mahatma (in 8 vols.), Vol. V, (Bombay, 1952) pp. 333-34; J. Nehru, The
Discovery of India, (London, 1956 ed.) pp. 468-69; SW, XIII, p. 324; XIV,
pp. 50-51, 65, 142, 162,418; Pattabhi Sitaramayya, op cit, II, pp. 631-34;
B. B. Misra, op cit, pp. 506-11; Abul Kalam Azad, India Wins Freedom,
(Bombay, 1959) p. 62 (for Congress Working Committee Resolution of II
April 1942); V.P. Menon, op cit, p. 222 and Indian Review, September 1945,
p. 555 (for Congress Working Committee Resolution of 12 Sept. 1945). See
also V.P. Menon, op cit, pp. 162-63; T.O.P., VI, pp. 796, 1022.
92. G.D. Birla, 8apu: A Unique Association, Ill. p. 144.
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separation as such, but of the real content of these conception
[sic]. "93
Wavell put it correctly when he wired to Pethick-Lawrence
on 11 March 1946 that "The real issue between Congress and
the League is not repeat not that of self-detennination for
Muslim majority provinces but whether, and if so how, Bengal
and Punjab should in the last resort be partitioned.''94
To obtain the maximum they could through tripartite
negotiations, Gandhi and the Congress on the one hand and
the League on the other resorted to strategems which cost the
people dearly. Watching Jinnah during the Cabinet Mission's
interview with him, Lord Alexander, a member of the mission,
noted that Jinnah avoided "as far as possible direct answers"
and was "playing this game, which is one of life and death for
millions of people. "95 "'This game" was being played by all the
three parties; the stakes were the lives of millions of people
and the welfare of unborn generations-quite cheap and
The Cabinet Mission's plan of 16 May 1946 offered the
prospect of a united India as a loose federation with a weak
center. The plan which was at first accepted by Congress and
League was later torpedoed by the Congress. Michael Brecher,
a great admirer of Nehru, writes that the consensus among
the people whom he saw, including Nehru, was that "a united
India was within the realm of possibility as late as 1946." He
adds that "one must assume that it [the partition of India on
religious lines] was a voluntary choice by Nehru, Patel and
their colleagues."96
They sought even to suppress the demand of the different Indian
nationalities to fonn homogeneous units within India until
popular upheavals coerced them to accept it in the main. As
B. B. Misra observed, the Congress "would not have anything
short of a strong central government, with even residuary
powers vested in it."99 It should be noted that to oppose the
Muslim League's obscurantist demand for the right of
self-detennination of the many different nations of India, such
as the Telegus, Tamils, Bengalis, Punjabis, and Gujaratis, each
of which has a common territory, history, language, and
economic life. On 14 July 1947, while presenting a report of
the Order of Business Committee at the fourth session of the
Indian Constituent Assembly, K.M. Munshi, one of the main
architects of the Indian Constitution, said that they were free
to have a federation of their own choice, with as strong a center
as they could make it and that there would now be no Provinces
with residuary powers. '00
The Marwari, Gujarati and Parsi big capitalists wanted a
strong center, for only that could enable them to realize their
ambitions. First, they wanted to prevent by using the state
machinery the emergence of competitors from different
national regions. Second, they aspired to become a zonal power
in the Indian Ocean region. At that time Japan lay prostrate,
the old colonial powers like France and the Netherlands were
maimed, and China was in civil war. Southeast Asia as well
as West Asia beckoned our big capitalists. While detained in
the Ahmednagar Fort Prison, Nehru dreamt that it was India's
"manifest destiny" to become the center of a super-national
state stretching from the Middle East to Southeast Asia and to
exercise "an important influence" in the Pacific region. He was
categorical that the small national state "can have no
independent existence."IO' The burden of many of his speeches
and writings in 1945 and after was that "India is likely to
dominate politically and economically the Indian Ocean
region.",o2 On 27 October 1948 he wrote to Patel from Paris:
"Definitely India is considered as a potential great Power and
specially a dominant Power in Asia. . .. In Asia, everyone
knows that China cannot play an effective part for a long time.
The only other country in Asia is India capable of playing this
part."'03 When he visited the U.S.A. in 1949, he spoke at many
places in the same vein. '04 Patel, too, sang the same tune: "Let
India be strong and be able to assume the leadership of Asia,
which is its right. . . . "105
How could India "dominate politically and economically
the Indian Ocean region" when it was one of the poorest
countries, woefully lacking in economic and military strength?
It was because of this disparity between aspiration and ability
that the Indian big bourgeoisie was at the same time, enamored
of the virtues of the British Commonwealth and yet longed to
Why was such voluntary choice made?
While the Congress leaders tried to have an undivided
India, they were prepared to settle for an India minus certain
parts in the northwest and east. But they would not compromise
on one issue, a strong center, whatever the cost to be paid by
the people of India. They preferred a divided India with a
strong center to an undivided India with a weak center. They
opted for partition on religious lines when they found that their
dream could not be realized through negotiations.
Moving his resolution at the All India Congress Committee
meeting held on 14 June 1947 for acceptance of the 3 June
plan, G.B. Pant argued that it would assure an Indian Union
with a strong center which could ensure progress. He contended
that this plan was better than the Cabinet Mission plan with
its groupings and sections and its weak center. 97
The Congress leaders wanted nothing more passionately
than a strong center. It is true that the Congress declared more
than once that the future constitution of India "should be a
federal one, with the largest measure of autonomy for the
federating units, and with the residuary powers vesting in these
units. "98 But when the Indian Constitution was framed, the
Congress leaders divested the units of all autonomy and
residuary powers and reduced them to glorified municipalities.
99. B.B. Misra, op cit, p. 431.
100. E. W. R. Lumby, The Transfer of Power in India 1945-7, (London,
IOI. J. Nehru, The Discovery of India, pp. 545, 549, 550.
\02. J. Nehru, SW, XIV, p. 325; Independence and After, pp. 219, 360.
103. Durga Das (ed), Sardar Patel's Correspondence 1945-50, Vol. VII,
(Ahmedabad, 1973) p. 668.
104. J. Nehru, Inside America (a collection of his speeches in the U.S.A. in
1949), (New Delhi, n.d.) pp. 54, 63, 83. \05. P.O. Saggi (Editor-in-Chiet), Life and Work of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, (Bombay, n.d.) p. 86. Ibid, IV, p. 319.
T.O.P., VI, pp. 1134-45.
Alexander Papers, Diary. p. 17; cited in B. B. Misra. op cit. p. 564.
Michael Brecher, op cit, pp. 374-75.
V.P. Menon, op cit, pp. 384-85.
See B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, op cit, I, p. 481; Azad, op cit, p. 240.
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\'01. CXIJ. No. 22850
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hitch its wagon to America's more resplendent star, as Nehru
told Colonel Louis Johnson, President Roosevelt's Personal
Representative, in April 1942!06 It hoped to play an
intermediate role between the imperialist metropolises and the
countries less developed than India, that is, assume the role of
a sub-exploiter.
K.M. Panikkar, then Prime Minister of the native state
of Bikaner and later India's ambassador to China and other
countries, pleaded for the formation of what he called ':a
maritime State System" with the great land area of India
organized to a high pitch of industrial efficiency at one end,
and Great Britain at the head of a Western bloc at another. He
said that in the organization of this maritime State system "India
will be one of the pivotal areas. It will be in the interests of
all her associates that she is strong, well-organized, industrially
advanced-in fact, a nation in a position to play her role in
the world."107
The following extract from the evidence ofthe Engineering
Association of India (on which big business was represented)
before the Fiscal Commission 1949-50 is also illuminating:
Communism in this part of the globe.
This role of a sub-exploiter in an imperialist system of
exploitation was not a new one for our bourgeoisie. During
the era of direct colonial rule they went to Ceylon, Malaya,
Burma, Uganda and Tanganyika as the British opened up those
colonies. As S.B.D. de Silva has put it, "Like the remora
which travels long distances by attaching itself through its
dorsal slicker to the body of the shark, Indian capital went
along with Britain's overseas expansion. "109
For instance, in Burma, Indian businessmen controlled
about two-fifths of the value of Burma's imports and about
three-fifths of the value of exports. 11O Besides other Indian
capitalists, the Nattukottai Cheittiyar groups alone, bas~d. in
Tamil Nadu, invested about Rs.75 crore (1 crore = 10 mIllIon
rupees, but to have an idea of the amount of this investme~t
at today's prices one has to multiply it by more than fifty) In
usury and trade in Burma. III
In the conditions created by World War II the prospect
. . . industrially-advanced countries like USA and UK should undertake the obligation of making India industrially great. The exigencies of the situation in South-East Asia require. it and comparative inability of the Western powers to be of effective he~p
in South-East Asia demands that India should be made strong In
order that she may act as a bulwark against the rising tide of
108. Government of India, Report of the Fiscal Commission 1949-50, Vol.
Ill, Written Evidence, (Delhi, 1950) p. 80.
109. S.B.D. de Silva, The Political Economy ofUnderdevelopment, (London,
Boston and Henley, 1982) p. 153.
110. Ibid, p. 153.
Ill. The Indian Central Banking Enquiry Committee 1981, Vol. I, Part I
-Majority Report, Calcutta, 1931, p. 95; Shoji Ito, "A Note on the 'Business
Combine' in India-with Special Reference to the Nattukottai Chettiars" The
Developing Economies (Tokyo), Sept. 1966, p. J70; see also Raman
Mahadevan, "Pattern of Enterprise of Immigrant Entrepreneurs: A Study of
Chettiars in Malaya, 1880-1930," Economic and Political Weekly, Jan.
28-Feb.4, 1978, pp. 146-152.
106. T.O.P., I, p. 665; 1. Nehru, SW, XII, pp. 194-95.
107. K.M. Panikkat, The Basis of an Indo-British Treaty, "Introduction";
cited in Modern Review (Calcutta), Dec. 1946, p. 489.
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of .d.ominating the Indian Ocean region economically and
politically, under the umbrella of imperialist powers like the
U.K. and the U.S.A., became quite alluring to the Indian big
bourgeoisie. It is the vision of becoming a zonal power as
underlings of the imperialists that impelled the Congress leaders
to reject an undivided India with a weak center. And they must
share the responsibility for the tragedy.
The transfer of power was the political counterpart of the
new economic and financial relationship that was developing
between imperialist capital and Indian big capital. During the
later phases of the war, British monopolists were planning to
set up manufacturing units in India in partnership with Indian
companies and to expand the market in India for their capital
goods and sophisticated consumer goods. 112 Both Secretary of
~tate f~r In~ia Amery. and Viceroy Wavell were eager to help
m makmg co-operative arrangements" between British and
Indian firms "for joint co-operative development of Indian
industries."!!3 On 25 January 1945 Amery informed Wavell
that U.K. business interests "were anxious to assist India's
industrial expansion which they believe will, if properly
organized, carry the hope of considerable profits to themselves
as well as to Indians by expanding the market in India for
United Kingdom goods."!14
A confidential memorandum, prepared jointly by the
board of Trade and Amery's Office, and enclosed with Amery's
message, stated that "Our future prospects lie in meeting, and
indeed promoting (1) the steady growth in the demand for
machinery, equipment, stores, accessories and semi-manufac­
tured materials needed by an expanding and diversified Indian
industrial system, and (2) the rapidly developing sophistication
of a growing section of Indian consumers .... "
The memorandum strongly hoped that through co-opera­
tion with Indian capitalists and by setting up manufacturing
units in India, British monopolies would be capable of "guiding
domestic production" and "strengthening our position in the
Indian market." II 5
During the inter-war years, the traditional British indus­
tries, such as cotton textiles, coal and ship-building declined.
On the other hand, technologically new and mass production
industries like engineering, electrical goods, chemicals and
automobiles grew rapidly. As a result of increasing concentra­
tion in the private sector giant corporations like Imperial
Chemical Industries, Unilever, and Guest Keen and Nettlefold
emerged. Consequently, the character of British investments
in foreign countries began to change after World War II.
During the inter-war years and even earlier, some large
international companies like Royal Dutch Shell, ICI, Guest
Keen, and Unilever had set up subsidiaries in India, but the
typical foreign investment was smaller, directed by expatriates
th~ough managing agency firms whch were unable to dispense
With the patronage of the colonial state. But gradually "the sun
of the old-fashioned rentier," as Hobsbawm puts it, "was
112. T.O.P., III, p. 752; IV, 935.
113. Ibid, IV, p. 676, 741, 812, 851-2.
114. Ihid, V, p. 466.
115. Ibid, V, pp. 469-70.
setting," and the sun of the giant international corporation was
rising."6 Besides setting up branches and subsidiaries, the
multinationals began towards the end of the war to make
"cooperative arrangements" with big Indian capitalists to start
joint ventures. They would provide the technology, capital
goods, components, and spare parts, and design, set up and
run, at least for some time, the plants, while local capitalist
groups would raise finances for making payments to them and
for other construction work and working capital. There was a
merger of interests of foreign and Indian capital. As technology
and capital goods (in which technology is embodied) are the
key to power, and as they are in the hands of the multinational
it generally controls a joint venture, whatever may be its equity
Indian big capital was eager to participate. Flush with war
profits, it began to have visions of rapid expansion in postwar
days by relying on two props, foreign imperialist capital and
state capitalism. In 1944 appeared A Brief Memorandum
Outlining a Plan ofEconomic Developmentfor India, popularly
known as the Bombay Plan, the authors of which were the
foremost representatives of Indian commerce and industry -Sir
Purshotamdas Thakurdas, Sir J.R.D. Tata, G.D. Birla, and
others. For finances, it depended partly on fresh influx of
foreign loan-capital, and for capital goods and technology it
relied on imperialist capital. It declared that India in the initial
years of planning would "be dependent almost entirely on
foreign countries for the machinery and technical skill
necessary for the establishment of both basic and other
Then in the spring and summer of 1945, a delegation of
some of India's top business magnates (including Sir J.R.D.
Tata, G. D. Birla, Sir Padampat Singhania, Kasturbhai Lalbhai,
M.A.H. Ispahani) went to the U.K. and the U.S.A. in search
of capital and collaboration.
Tie-ups between ICI and Tata and between Nuffield and
Birla for starting joint ventures in India, which Manu Subedar
denounced in the Central Legislative Assembly as illegitimate
marriages, were formed in 1945 and more negotiations for such
tie-ups were in progress. The Indian big bourgeoisie's plan of
depending on imperialist capital for fulfilling its dream of
expansion fitted perfectly into British and U.S. capital's
st~ategies of ~sing India chiefly as an outlet for export of capital.
Direct c.olo~lal rul~ was not deemed essential for the purposes
of multmatlOnals like the ICI. It could obtain much of what
it sought by using the levers of capital goods, technology and
loans. Unde~ the new kind of arrangement, the Indian economy
would remam, as before, dovetailed with the economy of the
metropolis, despite formal political independence. And when
the economic basis of the relationship would be of a satellitic
character, political and other relations could be shaped
For British imperialism it was both a retreat and an
advance. It was a retreat because Britain had to terminate its
direct rule. In another sense it was an advance, for freed of
the immediate worries of direct confrontation with the Indian
116.. E. Hobsbawm, Industry and Empire, (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1976
repnnt) p. 259.
117. P. Thakurdas et aI, A Brief Memorandum Outlining a Plan of Economic
Development for India (in 2 Parts), (Bombay, 1944) Part I, p. 44.
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial
use only.
people, it would carry on and even intensify its exploitation
of India.
It was not conflict with the raj but the bitter struggle
between Congress and League that delayed the political
settlemen~. The Congress stand vis-a-vis British imperialism
was no dIfferent from the League stand vis-a-vis the raj: and
amounted to "sweet reasonableness" and servility.
The task of carving up the provinces of the Punjab and
Bengal and the district of Sylhet in less than five weeks,
regardless of the interests of the 100 million people living there,
and attaching the parts to the two new states was given to a
British lawyer, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a stranger to the country.
The casual manner in which the government and top Congress
and League leaders handled the problem and the callous
indifference with which Mountbatten published the Radcliffe
award contributed greatly to the horrors of the communal
Campbell-Johnson wrote of the 3 June 1947 plan: "The
third main feature was Dominion Status. This was a
masterstroke on many grounds, but in particular because it
made possible the administrative and constitutional continuity,
on the basis of the great India Act of 1935.""8 It was this Act
that Nehru had described in 1936 as "a charter of slavery."
Interestingly, before Mountbatten left London to assume
the office of Viceroy, Attlee and members of the Cabinet
Mission had told him that he "was, in fact, to regard himself less
as the last British Viceroy than as the first head of the new
Indian State. ""9 (One marvels at the remarkable confidence of
the British imperialists in their compradors). The last British
Viceroy actually became at the invitation of the Congress the
first head of the new Indian state. Nehru and Patel "wanted
him to stay on [in that capacity] as long as he would .... "'20
At the invitation of the Congress two British governors
and two other governors of the period of direct colonial rule
remained governors of four out of nine provinces of the Indian
Union, the former two as governors of the largest two
p~ovinces. In .~akistan the governors of all the provinces except
Smd were BntIsh after the transfer of power. The bureaucratic
"steel frame" continued as before, but many British civilians
chose to leave after accepting compensation.
British military officers became heads of the three defence
services of India as well as of Pakistan. The former
Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, Sir Claude Auchin­
leek, became for some time Supreme Commander of the armed
forces of the two new States. An appeal was issued to all the
British officers and other British personnel in the Indian armed
forces to continue, and forty-nine percent of the officers and
ninety-four percent of the other ranks decided to stay on.'21
But the naval ratings who had been victimized for their
role in the R.I.N. revolt of 1946 and other such men were
denied jobs. Mountbatten appreciated Nehru's attitude and
noted that "it was evidence of Nehru's fairness of mind that
he said that he would look for someone other than his previous
nominee to be Trade Agent in Malaya, since Lord Wavell had
objected to him on the ground that he took part in an anti-British
movement during the- war."'22
Both Nehru and Jinnah "wholeheartedly welcomed" the
British Government's proposal to negotiate "overall Common­
wealth defence arrangements." It was decided that, on behalf
of India and Pakistan, the Joint Defence Council would conduct
negotiations with the high-powered British delegation. It is
worth noting that the Joint Defence Council was composed of
Mountbatten as Chairman, Claude Auchinleck (Supreme
Commander), Liaquat Ali Khan (representing Pakistan) and
Baldev Singh (representing India) as members. In his Personal
Report to members of the British cabinet and the king, dated
8 August 1947, Mountbatten wrote: "As I shall continue to be
Chairman of the Joint Defence Council after 15th August, I
shall hope to be able to regulate these discussions [between
the Council and the British delegation] and trust that the desired
objects will be achieved."123
Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, Chief of the Imperial
General Staff, descended on Delhi and had talks with Nehru
on 23 and 24 June 1947 "concerning the grant of facilities for
the employment of Gurkha troops in the British Army." The
only Indian present at the talks was Nehru. The note on this
interview prepared by Nehru himself stated that Montgomery
"pointed out the grave man-power difficulty of the United
Kingdom leading to the necessity of their retaining Gurkha
troops in South-East Asia for emergencies, notably war." On
behalf of India Nehru agreed in principle to grant the facilities
the British Government was seeking. Montgomery hoped that
the subsequent discussions for working out details would be
"carried out quietly without much fuss .... Therefore, it is
better to do it as soon as possible in a quiet way without any
Replying to Montgomery's letter of appreciation, Nehru
wrote: "As I told you, we have approached this question with
every desire to meet the wishes of the British Government. "125
Several Gurkha regiments and battalions "which now form part
of the Indian Army" and "their Regional Centres" were
"allotted for service under His Majesty's Government,"126
obviously, to deal with the rebellious people of Southeast Asia.
Mountbatten designed flags for the new states with the
Union Jack in the upper canton. Gandhi, Patel and others, as
Nehru told Mountbatten, were willing to accept it, but they
late~ found it prudent not to do so as there was a "general
feelIng among Congress extremists . . . that Indian leaders
were pandering far too much to the British." They agreed to
fly the Union Jack on certain days of the year; the flags of the
Governor-General and governors and of the Navy and the Air
Force were suitably designed, and it was decided not to
publicize these matters. 127
In India, freedom was ushered in with the playing of "God
Save the King" followed by "Jana Gana Mana" (the Indian
national anthem), with Nehru toasting the health of the British
122. Ibid. IX, p. 13.
123. Ibid, p. 599.
118. Campbell-Johnson, op cit. p. 355.
124. Ibid. XI. pp. 724-25.
119. T.O.P .• X, p. 243.
125. Ibid. pp. 609-10.
120. Ibid, XII, p. 36.
126. Ibid. XII. p. 569.
121. Ibid. p. 765.
127. Ibid. pp. 164.230-31.596.
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
King and Mountbatten toasting the Dominion Government, 128
and with the Union Jack flying proudly and looking on while
the Indian national flag was unfurled. On 15 August 1947 the
"programme had originally included a ceremonial lowering of
the Union Jack" but it was changed and the Union Jack was
not hauled down, because it might offend "British suscepti­
bilities. "129
To crown all, on 15 August, Rajendra Prasad, President
of the Indian Constituent Assembly, requested Mountbatten,
the head of the new State, to convey "a message of loyal
greetings from this House" to the British King. It said:
"That message [the King's message to the new Dominion]
will serve as an inspiration in the great work on which we launch
today. . . . I hope and trust that the interest and sympathy and the
kindness which have always inspired His Majesty will continue in
favour of India and we shaH be worthy of them. "'30
128. Campbell-Johnson, op cit, pp. 158, 161.
129. T.O.P., XII, p. 772.
130. Ibid, p. 777.
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© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
Women in North Korea: An Interview with
the Korean Democratic Women's Union
by Jon Halliday*
Historical Background
From 1910 (formally, de facto earlier) until 1945 Korea
was under extremely harsh occupation by Japan. During this
period, when every component of Korean culture was cruelly
suppressed, Korean women suffered specific oppression. Very
large numbers of Korean women were forcibly driven into
prostitution, both in Korea itself and throughout the Japanese
empire. Many were forced into prostitution for Japanese troops
in appalling conditions, often in the front lines, and many were
killed in the trenches. I Within general Japanese sexism, there
was a specificity to the attempt to degrade and exploit Korean
women. Certain aspects of contemporary Democratic People's
Republic of Korea (DPRK) official culture must be understood
as attempts to combat the legacy of this colonial past. The
emphasis on "purity" -for women-which is articulated by
both men and women in the DPRK is justified officially by
reference to both the Japanese colonial past and the contempor­
ary degradation of women in South Korea, which is usually
attributed mainly to US and Japanese influences, such as sex
tourism. 2
However, the official DPRK position conceals several
evasions. First, Korean society had its own autonomous forms
'My thanks to Bruce Cumings and Brett Nee for very helpful critical comments.
Any errors are solely mine. I have done short bibliographies on North Korea
in Vol. II, no. 4 (1979) and Vol. 16, no. 4 (1984) of the Bulletin.
I. Saburo Ienaga, The Pacific War: World War /I and the Japanese,
1931-1945 (New York, Pantheon, 1978), p. 159; cf. p. 184. See also the
appalling account by Yoshida Kiyoharu, a former Japanese official involved
in shanghaiing Korean women, in People's Korea (Tokyo), Aug. 21 & 28,
of sexism which pre-dated both Japanese colonialism and the
advent of US imperialism. A particularly emblematic-and
problematic-instance is that in the period before the formal
imposition of Japanese rule in 1910 the Korean state, which
was male dominated, executed by decapitation Korean women
who "consorted" with Japanese men.' So far as I know, similar
punishment was not visited on Korean men who "consorted"
with Japanese women (or with Japanese men). Clearly here, a
potentially salutary response to Japanese male sexism was
transmuted into sexist retribution against Korean women.
This evasion may well be linked to a second one: the
conspicuous failure of the DPRK to come to terms with its
2. This male-imposed concept of "purity" also involves the suppression of an
important part of Korea's cultural past. Gavan McCormack reports being told
(falsely) by a DPRK historian in 1980 that Korea's tradition "was of a degree
of purity superior to other East Asian countries" because it lacked any
equivalent to Japanese erotic paintings or Chinese erotic novels (Gavan
McCormack, "North Korea: Kimilsungism-Path to Socialism?" Bulletin of
Concerned Asian Scholars [henceforth: BCASj, Vol. 13, no. 4 [Oct.-Dec.
1981], p. 57). Contemporary male-imposed puritanism also seems to deny the
possibility of an autonomous female eroticism and of women's right to this.
The Cuban writer Carlos Franqui notes that Korean puritanism exceeds even
that of other post-revolutionary states, including not only the USSR and China,
but also Cuba, which had an extremely harsh experience of US sexism within
recent decades (Franqui, Family Portrait with Fidel [London, Cape, 1983],
p. 211).
3. Mikiso Hane, Peasants. Rebels, and Outcastes: The Underside of Modern
Japan (London, Scholar Press; New York, Pantheon, 1982), p. 219, citing
Morisaki Kazue, Karayuki-san (Tokyo, Asahi Shimbunsha, 1976), p. 120-123,
127ff. (The word "consorted" is Hane's).
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial
use only.
own Confucian past. 4 Whereas both China and Vietnam have
waged major campaigns of varying effectiveness against their
Confucian pasts, the DPRK stands out among the East Asian
post-revolutionary regimes by its silence on this score.
Confucianism struck particularly deep roots in Korea, and it
is not fanciful to suggest that there may be powerful links
between this Confucian past and the manifestly patriarchal
present under the "Great Leader" Kim II Sung and the "Dear
Leader" Kim long II (his son).
Third, male sexism and violence against women have not
been a monopoly of the representatives of capitalism in the
modem era. The Soviet Red Army committed a large number
of rapes and other acts of violence against women in Northern
Korea when it first arrived. These are neither included in the
official account nor explicitly adduced as a cause of current
policies and attitudes. 5
Lastly, while the DPRK has adopted the standard rhetoric
of Marxism common to all post-revolutionary societies, it, like
the others, has not come to terms with the incomplete legacy
of this tradition. 6 On the contrary, the DPRK and its leader
Kim II Sung have grafted this incomplete ideology onto their
own Confucian traditions without much questioning of the
inadequacies of the two strands, particularly as regards the
autonomy of women.
The position of women in the DPRK is also directly
affected by material factors. Among these is the ratio of
Northern to Southern popUlation. When Korea was divided in
1945-48 the Northern part had only about one-third the South's
population. It now has about 20 million people, compared with
some 42 million in the South. This demographic disadvantage
was exacerbated by the effects of the Korean War of 1950-53
in two major ways. First, the North was subjected to intensive
bombing which virtually destroyed the entire DPRK. Within
six months of the start of the war the US grounded its bombers
because, according to the head of Bomber Command in the
Far East, there were no more targets left to hit (something
which never happened in Vietnam).7 By the end of the war,
the DPRK had been saturated with high explosives and napalm.
4. On Korean Confucianism, see: Key P. Yang and Gregory Henderson, "An
Outline History of Korean Confucianism," Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 18,
no. I (Nov. 1958) and no. 2 (Feb. 1959); cf. Munsang Seoh, "The Ultimate
Concern of Yi Korean Confucians: An Analysis of the i·ki Debates,"
Occasional Papers on Korea (Seattle), No.5 (March 1977); Michael C.
Kalton, "Chong Tasan's Philosophy of Man: A Radical Critique of the
Neo-Confucian World View," Journal of Korean Studies (Seattle), Vol. 3
(1981). Lew Myong-gol, "A Critique of North Korean View of the Practical
Learning," Vantage Point (Seoul) [henceforth: VP], Vol. 6, no. 5 (May 1983)
has reference to DPRK criticisms of Confucianism-in the past.
5. Edvard Kardelj records that when he raised the same issue with Stalin about
Yugoslavia: "Stalin said that Soviet soldiers did not do such things, but that
if there had been an odd case here and there-which was only natural-well,
they had not done any real harm." (Edvard Kardelj, Reminiscences: The
Struggle for Recognition and Independence: The New Yugoslavia, 1944-1957
[London, Blond & Briggs, 1982], p. 63).
6. The fundamental source on this whole area is Maxine Molyneux, "Socialist
Societies Old and New: Progress Towards Women's Emancipation," Feminist
Review (London), no. 8 (Summer 1981); also in World Development, Vol. 9,
no. 9/10 (Sept.-Oct. 1981).
7. Major General Emmett O'Donnell, Jr., to U.S. Congressional Hearings on
the dismissal of Douglas MacArthur, June 25, 1951, p. 3075. It should be
specified that at the period to which O'Donnell is referring the US was
occupying most of North Korea.
Secondly, between October and December 1950 some 90
percent of the territory and population of the DPRK were
occupied by the US and its allies. This is, inter alia, the only
time in history (apart from the marginal case of Grenada) when
the US has actually occupied a Communist country. It seems
probable that the DPRK lost 12-15 percent of its population
during the war-a much higher percentage than the Soviet
Union lost in the Second World War. lust over half the Korean
dead were men. 8
These two factors condition official DPRK attitudes to
population growth. The historical conditions are further
aggravated by the high level of military preparedness on the
Korean peninsula. Both North and South Korea have very large
armed forces. In 1983 the South reportedly had 622,000 people
under arms (all men). The North's armed forces (mainly, but
not exclusively, male) are probably less than this, but the
proportion of the North's population under arms is much higher
than in the South. 9 This high level of militarization also
reinforces male domination in the DPRK.
When I asked about women who might not want
to have children I was told: "All women in our
country want children. Any woman who did not
would be considered abnormal." I checked the word "abnormal" and was assured that that was indeed what had been said. When I asked if there was therefore any social stigma attached to women who did not have children, I was told: "All women
have children."
The position of women is determined by three major linked
pressures, which partly conflict with each other: for higher
production of material goods and services; for a larger
population; and for a long-serving, but largely celibate army.
To achieve these goals the regime has pushed almost all adult
8. A Soviet source states that between 1949 and 1953 the male popUlation of
the DPRK fell from 4,782,000 to 3,982,000, while the female population fell
from 4,840,000 to 4,509,000 (V. V. Martynov, Koreya [Moscow, Izdatel'stvo
"Mysl," 19701, p. 59, cited in Robert Ante, "The Transfurmation of the
Economic Geography of the DPRK," Korea Focus, Vol. I, no. 3 [19721, p.
55). I have discussed some of the far-reaching effects of the US-UN occupation
of North Korea in "The Korean War: Some Notes on Evidence and Solidarity,"
BCAS, Vol. II, no. 3 (1979). Two important further sources are: We Accuse!
Report of the Commission of the Women's International Democratic Federation
in Korea, May 16 to 27, 1951 (Berlin, WIDF, 1952); and Commission of
International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Reports on Investigations
in Korea and China, March-April 1952 (Brussels, IADL, 1952).
9. The Western estimate most widely reproduced is 784,500 in the services
(1983); but no hard evidence has ever been publicly produced for this figure;
among the problems in accepting it is that the official Western estimate for
1978 was 512,000; an increase of over a quarter of a million in the armed
forces over five years in a country the size of the DPRK would involve a huge
strain on the economy which would be bound to show up in other economic
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial
use only.
women into production outside the home, set up a very
extensive network of kindergartens and other services, and
encouraged a high birth rate (partly by making contraception
and abortion difficult to obtain), but with very late marriage.
Men carry more of the burden on the military front, but women
carry a disproportionate amount of the total burden in terms
of overall work and sacrifice.
Gains, Limits-and Uncertainties
No foreign visitor on a short trip to North Korea can
honestly claim to be sure how anything really works. Even
less so can a male visitor, who does not speak Korean, like
myself, give a comprehensive picture of the position of
women-or of male oppression-after a visit of only 10
days. 10 The regime provides only very fragmentary information;
it blatantly evades on many very important issues and adopts
an extremely cavalier attitude to facts and statistics. And not
only are certain barriers between men and women strong, but
there are also the barriers between Koreans and foreigners and
a strong division between the public and the private.
On the one hand, with the above qualifications, it is
manifest that, compared with the past, the position of women
has greatly improved in terms of standard of living, access to
education, health and the basic human dignities, life expectancy
and access to a wide range of jobs. The most extreme form of
exploitation of women, prostitution, has apparently (and I
believe probably in fact) been eradicated; the same goes for
conCUbinage. This marks a major advance over both the past
and South Korea. Similarly, it seems most unlikely that the
crudest forms of violence against women, such as male goon
squads pouring human excrement over women workers, which
do occur in the South, could possibly occur in the North.
On the other hand, does the equality which the regime
loudly proclaims reaIly exist? It seems most unlikely. First, it
is clear that women still have to do far more work overall;
almost all adult women work outside the home more or less
fuIl-time, but the bulk of housework and looking after children
at home is (as everywhere) done by women. Second, although
the regime claims to have "enforced" equality for women for
four decades, including in pay, it is also clear that male and
female wages and incomes (see below) are not equal. Some
of this is due to different occupational structures (more women
in light industry and agriculture), but it is by no means certain
that the principle of equal pay for equal work is being enacted
either. Evidence confirming that it was would surely be
forthcoming if this were the case. Third, in the key area of
political power women are enormously under-represented,
even though what has been done undoubtedly represents a
major advance over the past. Thus a very recent text on women
(March 1985) explicitly starts out by stating: "Participation of
indices; yet no such evidence has been forthcoming. In 1980 Gavan
McCormack was told by an official in the DPRK that the armed forces were
"about 350,000-400,000" (information kindly made available by Gavan
McCormack to the author). My own visual observation (in 1977) was that
about 10% of the armed forces were women.
10. I visited the DPRK for ten days in summer 1977. as a guest of the Korean
Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries. together with the late
Malcolm Caldwell. whose account of this interview is in his "North
Korea-Aspects of a New Society." Contemporary Review (London). vol.
233. no. 1355 (Dec. 1978).
women in political affairs is a barometer of women's position
and roles."11 It goes straight on to give figures for women in
the relatively powerless assemblies, but it does not have a
single figure for women's participation in the political
organisation which actually runs the country, the Korean
Workers' Party (KWP). The regime's consistent failure to
provide any information about women in the KWP bodes ill
for women having a major role not only in the present but also
in the foreseable future. This manifest under-representation in
the KWP and in its ruling bodies is aggravated by the equally
manifest high military component in the party.
Doubt about the degree of real equality is reinforced by
the stridently patriarchal style (and substance) of the regime,
most evident in the cult of Kim II Sung, along with the
promotion of his son, Kim long II, as heir apparent and the
attendant mini-cult of Kim long II. 12 Along with this goes a
whole gamut of authoritarian and patriarchal attitudes and
language on the part ofthe ruling group. AIl of this is reinforced
by blatantly patriarchal and phaIlocratic products. In addition,
some of Kim II Sung's speeches, while rhetorically calling for
equality, in fact seem to blame women for errors and forms
of backwardness which are actually the responsibility of men. 13
The question of male responsibility and women's freedom
also has to be confronted in the area of sexuality and repression.
It is hard to believe that the regime's steely attitude towards
late marriage, with enforced sexual abstinence before marriage,
does not conceal immense sexual misery. This suffering may
hit both sexes, but it is male-imposed. There is no sign that
women have been allowed an equal say with men in reversing
and reforming traditional attitudes in what is, after all, supposed
to be a new society.
Any visitor on a formal guided tour in a post-revolutionary
society is inevitably subjected to considerable ritual. 14 It would
be an illusion to think one is seeing "the real society." In all
the "social" situations in which we were involved, and in
everything involving "entertainment," women were always
both serving men and not partaking of the goods offered, except
in the headquarters of the Women's Union.
Towards the end of our stay we visited a cooperative farm
at Ryongrim, near Anju (about half way between Pyongyang
II. Pak II Bun, "Women at Work," People's Korea, no. 1,234 (March 23,
12. I have a few preliminary observations on the specificity of Kim's cult in
my "The North Korean Enigma," New Left Review (London), no. 127 (1981).
Excellent analysis and evocative quotations in Bruce Cumings. "Corporatism
in North Korea," Journal of Korean Studies, vol. 4 (1982-3). Interesting
observations in Horst Kumitzky, "North Korea as I Saw It" (Seoul, Public
Relations Association of Korea, n.d. [translation, with altered title, of article
originally in Kursbuch, no. 30 (1972)]); see especially section V ("Sexuality
and Political Power").
13. See the curious passage about what Kim calls "the disaster" during the
US-UN occupation of the DPRK in 1950 in Kim, "On Some Tasks Confronting
the Women's Union Organization," speech to the 3d KDWU Congress. Sept.
2, 1965, in Kim, On the Work of the Women's Union (Pyongyang, FLPH.
1971), pp. 45-6; and the passage from Kim's speech to the 4th KDWU
Congress, "On the Revolutionization and Working-Classization of Women,"
(FLPH, 1974), pp. 4-5 (speech delivered October 7, 1971). In addition, one
can hardly avoid stating the obvious: most of the texts on "the woman question"
are by a·man. Kim II Sung; most of the rest are by his wife, Kim Song Ae.
14. Brilliant material on this in Hans Magnus Enzensberger. "Tourists of the
Revolution," in Enzensberger. Raids and Reconstructions: Essays on Politics,
Crime and Culture (London, Pluto, 1976).
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and the Chinese border). It was a Sunday. We had specifically
asked to visit a fann and to meet fanners, but we naively did
not spell out our desire actually to see a field. So we saw the
fann and met some fanners-but never got into a field. We
were entertained at dinner in a house which had been visited
by Kim n Sung. Women did all the cooking and serving, while
the men ate a great deal and spent a lot of effort trying to force
food on us. When we asked about the division of labor in the
house and the absence of women from activities other than
cooking and serving, the woman who seemed to live in the
house (it was not clear if she really did, as it was a very artificial
set-up) was brought into the room where we were eating and
sat down, but ate nothing, looked uneasy (maybe bored, too),
and soon returned to the kitchen.
On the occasions when alcohol was served, no woman
ever drank alcohol in our presence. On several occasions
women disappeared when men started drinking beer. One
woman said that women did sometimes drink alcohol, but not
as much as men, and would rarely drink in the company of
men. The same person also spontaneously expressed a strong
dislike of male drunks-so they apparently did then still exist
in the "socialist paradise." Obviously, drinking beer with men
is neither a goal of socialism nor a higher form of human
existence. All the same, is there equality? Doubts on this score
are somewhat strengthened by the charge made by a
Venezuelan Communist poet and writer, Ali Lameda, who
lived in the DPRK and was imprisoned there, that a woman
was sent to prison for smoking (about 1970).'5 Again, while
men smoked a lot in public, women did not.
Apart from the regime's systematic concealment of infor­
mation it does not want outsiders to know, and its manifest
willingness to lie when it wants to, there are two particular
problems in its mode of dealing with "the women question."
The first is that the official position now is that "the women
question" has been "solved" (or even "brilliantly solved ...
by the Great Leader"). When the regime makes a claim of this
kind, it is no longer open to question. Even though inequality
between men and women remains manifest, the regime
deprives both women and men of the grounds on which to
wage a campaign for genuine equality. Indeed, I would think
it would be most unwise for anyone in the DPRK to suggest
that such a campaign was still needed-and there was certainly
no sign that it was underway, much less being vigorously
waged, in 1977.
The second problem is that the regime seems to be quite
haphazard in its programmatic approach to the question of
inequality and the position of women. In 1971 Kim II Sung
could tell the KDWU that there were very few women in
positions of power, especially in the KWP, (something which
they presumably were well aware of).'6 But at the next KWP
Congress, the 6th, in 1980, Kim II Sung, in devoting exactly
14 lines of a 5-hour speech to the subject, described the position
of women as solely part of the "technical" revolution, and
made no mention at all of the massive under-representation of
women in the Party (manifest in pictures of the Congress)'7
nor any reference to whether or not the apparently important
deficiencies which he had mentioned in 1971 bad been
The possibility must therefore be confronted that the im­
provement in the formal position of women manifest after 1945
may have come to a halt, or slowed down, well short of even
formal equality. In fact, there is little evidence, other than
official rhetoric, that genuine equality is even a real goal of
the regime.
Not nearly enough is known about life in the DPRK to
come to definitive conclusions (which does not mean, as some
apologists for the DPRK claim, that one can not be sure about
anything). Two small examples at each end of the scale are
the socialization of youth and retirement. At the Ryongrim
fann we visited a middle school (on a Sunday). The boys and
girls (about 12 years old) were in separate groups in the same
classroom. We asked if this was sexual segregation and were
told that it ws not-it was simply because, it being Sunday,
the children were in their work groups (sort of organized
hobbies) and that in regular classes they were not segregated.
We were unable to verify if this was the case or not. In any
case, the implication was that boys and girls were engaged in
different hobbies, which is itself important.
As for old age, women retire at age 55, men at 60. Life
expectancy has risen markedly since Liberation. The regime
claims that life expectancy for women has now reached about
77 (71 for men). If so (these figures are disputed in the West),
this means that women have on average over 20 years of life
after retirement, while men have only one decade. II What
happens to women over this long period? One recent text says
that "many women . . . remain on their jobs and are active
after retirement age."'9 This may be a very good thing, but it
may also mean that "retirement" does not mean what the regime
usually claims. The very rapid urbanization of the society­
some two-thirds of the population probably now live in urban
areas-must have put tremendous strain on the old extended
family. Has the regime found a way to obviate, or lessen the
loneliness which most societies inflict on their old people?
Anyone who has tried to decode and evaluate DPRK
propaganda knows that the regime speaks with two voices. It
is quite capable of stating as a fact something which is only a
goal. It is also capable of presenting sharply conflicting
information, without attempting to resolve the contradictions.
From the regime's published material, it is clear that women
have not yet achieved economic equality, in spite of official
claims; and, above all, they have not remotely approached
political equality in the body which matters, the ruling Party.
Culturally, the society is still very patriarchal. Socially, women
have undoubtedly made enormous advances over the past, but
17. An observer at the last (6th) Party Congress in 1980 told me that less than
10 percent of the delegates, and probably closer to 5 percent were women.
18. Life expectancy figures are difficult to decipher. Most DPRK sources
claim that average expectancy reached 74 years (female: 77; male: 71) around
1980. People's Korea, March 9, 1985, p. 3, appears to claim that the figure
reached 77 in 1979 (it claims 79 for men and 75 for women in that year
[presumably the other way round?]-but this claim is different from the figure
15. Ali Lameda, A Personal Account of the Experience of a Prisoner of
of 74 years (average) for 1984 published on the facing page (2) of the same
Conscience in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (London, Amnesty
issue as the official figure at the end of the Seven-Year Plan. The DPRK is
International, 1979), p. 19. I was told that women made up 5-10 percent of
not often given the benefit of the doubt, but it has only itself to blame if it
the prison population in 1977 (interview, Pyongyang, July 1977).
publishes such radically conflicting data.
16. See quotation in note 27 below.
19. Pale II Bun, 'Women at Work,' op. cit.
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whether they have achieved equality is another matter.
The Interview
The text below is an almost complete version of an inter­
view with representatives of the Korean Democratic Women's
Union, the KDWU. This organization apparently groups
together all adult women in the DPRK. 20 I have reproduced an
almost verbatim text for two reasons. First, it is one of the few
on-the-record interviews in which DPRK officials have
discussed issues such as contraception, abortion and remarriage;
information about women in the DPRK is conspicuous by its
absence in most studies on women in post-revolutionary
societies. Second, I hope the full text carries some of the flavor
and nuances inherent in an interview conducted by two Western
male intellectuals on a short visit, questioning official female
representatives of a regime which prides itself on being
"monolithic" and carefully controls information.
"As for wages, there is no difference. There
is equal pay for equal work. Women [in fact] have
more benefits than men. Women with three
children aged thirteen or less get eight hours'
pay for six hours' work. There are women's san­
atoria, rest homes, maternity hospitals and
children's hospitals.
Asfor birth control, there is no such policy."
During our stay in Korea we were accompanied throughout
by two (male) officials on behalf of the Society which invited
us. We made our requests in advance for meetings and inter­
views via the Society. If a particular interview appeared to be
a probability (or a certainty), the officials would ask us to give
them the questions in advance, both in writing and verbally.
It was not always possible to prepare written questions in
advance and submit them in time. Further, we made it clear
that we preferred to have a freewheeling discussion whenever
possible. However, after a brief period in the country, it became
clear to us that we got more information, especially of a factual
kind, if we stated in advance what we wanted to ask. We
therefore communicated in advance the areas and issues we
wanted to discuss, while explicitly reserving the "right" to
pursue questions in the discussion. In the case of the interview
with the KDWU we did not submit written questions in
advance, but went very fully over the ground several days
ahead with our guides. The only question to which an objection
was raised was the one about contraception. We were told that
this would be "embarrassing." We replied that people in the
West, both men and women, would like to know about this
question and that we had been requested to ask it by both women
and men-and that we would like to hear any refusal from the
women themselves and not from a man claiming to interpret
women's reactions. We suggested that if the question was not
appropriate for this interview we would like to interview a
woman doctor.
During the preliminary discussion with our guides, a
number of observations emerged which deserve to be reported.
When I asked about women who might not want to have
children I was told: "All women in our country want children.
Any woman who did not would be considered abnormal." I
checked the word "abnormal" and was assured that that was
indeed what had been said. When I asked if there was therefore
any social stigma attached to women who did not have children,
I was told: "All women have children."21 On the question of
divorce, I was led to understand that it was basically a private
matter between the two parties, but that they did have to go
to some form of court to get the divorce ratified formally. One
official said, "the courts only come in in a case of venereal
disease." One (male) official also stated that contraceptive
devices were freely available to all women, but that they needed
a doctor's prescription. According to him, anyone could ask.
But the criteria for approval were not clear, at least to me. We
failed to ask about the availability of male contraceptives. We
saw no signs of contraceptives on sale or any other indication
that information about them was communicated in a public
The interview below took place at the heaquarters of the
KDWU in Pyongyang, the capital ofthe DPRK. Our three inter­
locutors were: Yi Suk Yon,23 Chairperson of the Auditing
Committee and member of the Central Committee of the
KDWU; Yang Gi Su and Ro Song Hi, officeholders attached
to the Central Committee of the KDWU. Two of the women
wore traditional Korean dress; the youngest one wore Western­
style dress (and understood English as well). The interview
was conducted through a (male) interpreter. across a rather wide
room. All participants sat in large armchairs set in rows down
each side of the room. Lemonade and beer were served. The
room was air-conditioned. A portrait of DPRK President Kim
II Sung hung at one end of the room.
After initial formalities, we started out by stating briefly
21. We frequently encountered such "total" slogans and answers. Ritual use
of them, of course, undermines all DPRK evidence. The possibility that there
might be a childless married woman in the DPRK is evident in the tale of the
woman worker at the famous Vinalon factory at Hamhung who was discovered
by Kim II Sung to be childless after several years of marriage. The Great
Leader immediately endowed her with a gift of his personal supply of ginseng
root, whereupon she reportedly produced four children in the next four years.
"All women" may include those with children by adoption.
22. In other conversations with officials we asked about sex education.
Specifically, we asked if it was usually given in the family or at school. We
were told that it was not given by either, and that the state did not have an
explicit policy on it. When we suggested that it might be considered a lacuna
20. In 1971, Kim Il Sung said: "Every woman in our country now belongs
in state practice to fail to have a policy in such an important field, we were
to her organization" (Kim, "On the Revolutionization and Wooong-Classiza­
told that sex education material was available at schools, but that each child
tion of Women," speech given Oct. 7, 1971 to the KDWU [Pyongyang, FLPH,
had to seek it out as best she or he could on their own. We were told flatly
1974], p. 6). Some sources suggest that the KDWU is mainly for women who
that sex before marriage "does not exist in our country."
are not members of the ruling Korean Workers' [Communist] Party. We failed
to get clarification on this.
23. Korean names are given surname first.
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why we had asked for the interview. We said that many women
in the West had asked us to discuss these questions, and that
many people, both male and female, in the West would like
to know about the position of women in the DPRK and about
attempts to end male domination. We gave a brief outline of
the women's movement in the West and its political import­
ance, emphasizing its radical and progressive nature. (This
appeared to be news to our interlocutors, but their reaction
may have been a form of politeness, which I could not "read"
correctly). The KDWU officials indicated that they would be
interested in receiving material produced by the women's
movement in the West.
In order to try to avoid misunderstanding we said that
some of the questions we wanted to ask might be considered
delicate and asked the KDWU officials to say in advance if
there were any areas or subjects they did not want to discuss.
They said there were none. The text below has been reproduced
from notes I made at the time. It has not been checked by the
KDWU. I have added explanatory notes and some additional
The procedure adopted was that we read out a list of
questions at the beginning after our introductory explanation.
Some supplementary questions came up during and after the
KDWU replies.
* * * * *
We would first of all like to get some idea of the place of
women in the economy of the DPRK. What is the ratio of
women to men in the labor force as a whole? The last figure
we have for the ratios in the population as a whole is
51.3:48.7-but this isfor 1963. 24 Is this still the same or not?
And can you give us precise information about the age distribu­
tion of the population by sex?
Second, what percentage ofwomen are actively employed?
And what is the distribution by sector-as a percentage of the
industrial work force, and in the tertiary sector? The latest
figures we have date from 1971, which show women accounting
for 45.5 percent of the industrial work force, and possibly 48
percent of the work force as a whole. 25 Is this still the same,
or not? It has been suggested that more men are being moved
24. Chong-Sik Lee, "Social Changes in North Korea: A Preliminary
Assessment,"' Journal of Korean Affairs, Vol. 6, no. I (1976), p. 20. US
government sources indicate that the population imbalance resulting from the
Korean War had been righted by 1968 at the latest (see Rinn-sup Shinn et ai,
Area Handbookfor North Korea [Washington, D.C., US GPO, October 1969],
25. Kim II Sung, in "On the Revolutionization and Working-Classization of
Women," op. cit., p. 13, said that women were 45.5% of the work force in
industry; Lee (see p. 20 of reference in n. 1) cites an interview by Kim with
the Asahi Shimbun (Sept. 25, 1971) in which Kim is reported to have said
that 48 percent of the industrial work force were women. Additional conjectures
in Lee Won-jun, "North Korean Labor Policy and its New Labor Plan,"
Vantage Point (Seou\) [henceforth: VP), Vol. I, no. 5 (Sept. 1978), pp. 15-16.
The figures of 45.5 and 48 percent are given as current in a very recent text,
Pak II Bun, "Women at Work," People's Korea, no. 1,234 (March 23,1985),
p. 3. This text also states: "Especially, in light industry, women hold a majority.
It is not too much to say that women are producing almost all products of light
industry, including daily necessities, which are closely related to living." And:
"It is the power of women which has supported the country's agriculture.. . . "
into industry, leaving women as the majority offarm workers:
is this correct? And what are average wages for women and
men throughout the economy?
Third, what is the current birth rate, and what is the
growth rate of the population as a whole? Is it correct that the
latter fell from the early 1960s to reach a figure of about 2
percent per annum in the period 1970-197426
Fourth, what percentage of the total membership of the
[Korean Workers' J Party is made up of women? And in its
leading organs-e.g., the Central Committee; and in other
leading bodies, such as the Central People's Committee? And
in the cabinet? In his address to the 4th Congress ofthe KDWU
in 1971 President Kim Il Sung pointed out that while women
make up half the popUlation of the country, they account for
much less than halfthe leading cadres throughout the society.27
What concrete steps are being taken to rectify the situation?
And what is the KDWU's policy for correcting the imbalance?
Are you vigorously combating male supremacy in the Party
and the state?
Fifth, what is the average age ofmarriage,for both women
and men? What is the minimum legal age of marriage? And
are women in the armed forces allowed to marry?
We would also be very interested to hear about the
marriage ceremony here: is it a big occasion? Roughly how
many people, and what sort of people, would attend?
Sixth, we would like to ask about divorce. What is the
procedure for obtaining a divorce? Can it just be by mutual
consent? And what grounds are necessary for obtaining it? In
what circumstances do the courts intervene? What is the
divorce rate? And what is the situation as regards child
In addition, we would like to know about remarriage for
women whose husbands are still alive . We have been led to
understand that this is very rare or non-existent: is this so?
Seventh, are birth control methods freely available? What
is the procedure for obtaining contraceptive devices? Is a
doctor's certificate necessary? Is there any difference depend­
ing on whether a woman is married or not?
Eighth, is abortion legal? And what are considered legiti­
mate grounds?
Ninth, we would be very interested to know whether the
distinction between legitimacy and illegitimacy has been
officially abolished. Are there any single mothers in the DPRK,
and, if so, what is their social position? Is there any
discrimination against an unmarried mother?
Tenth, we would like to know about how work in and
around the house is divided up. For example, who would
26. Lee, op. cit., p. 19; confirmed by M. Glebova and V. Mikheyev, "Some
Aspects of Economic Development of the Democratic People's Republic of
Korea," Far Eastern Affairs (Moscow) [henceforth: FEA], no. I, 1983, pp.
89-90. The World Bank's World Development Report 1984 (Table 20, p. 257)
gives the crude birth rate as 30 per thousand (I982); the Asia 1984 Yearbook
gives the birth rate as 32 per thousand (year not given) (p. 6). The World
Factbook 1984 (U.S. CIA, Washington, D.C., April 1984) gives average
annual growth rate as 2.3 percent (p. 125).
27. "We have a very small number of women cadres today in view of the
large number of women on the job ... [a]t present the overwhelming majority
of [cadres] are men at both national and local levels . . . And even this small
number of women cadres are working mostly in the fields of secondary
importance." (1971 Report cited in note 20, pp. 9-10).
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normally do the cooking? the shopping? and looking after the
children? Is it normal for a man to share in these tasks or not?
In his speech on the 30th anniversary of the Korean Workers'
Party [October 9, 1975J, President Kim Il Sung said that the
food industry and kitchen utensils must be improved so as "to
free women completely from the heavy burdens of household
chores." The implication of this is that women, not men, are
doing all or most ofthe work in the house. Is this so, and what
changes would you like to see in relations between men and
women as far as this is concerned?
Eleventh, we would like to hear your opinion on the family.
We are rather surprised at the emphasis you place here, in a
society which claims to be socialist, on the family. 28 As you
know, both Marx and Engels, especially the latter, were highly
critical of the family as an institution and did not regard it as
assisting socialism in any way. Yet here you put tremendous
stress on it: why?
Twelfth, we would be very interested to know why women,
but not men, continue to wear traditional Korean dress.
Lastly, we would be interested to know if you have any
information on, or have published any material on Korean
revolutionary heroines.
We don't know if we can satisfy all your questions. We
will try to answer the questions as they correlate to each other,
giving priority to the most important ideas. We would like to
stress that women take a very important role in economic life,
in politics, and in the realm of ideas, so you may get answers
to your questions about the participation of women in the
First of all, what is the woman question? It is to free
women from oppression and inequality, and provide women
with all the necessities of life. In our country women participate
actively in the institutions of power. Women account for 33
percent of all deputies-ranging from the Supreme People's
Assembly to local government organs. 29
Women account for a very high number of cadres in the
national economy-especially in agriculture, light industry,
public health and education. In agriCUlture women account for
the majority of the leading personnel in, for example,
management committees and other organs [of power]. 30 In
28. Article 63 of the 1972 Constitution reads: "Marriage and the family are
protected by the State. The State pays great attention to consolidating the
family, the cell of society." The family is also used to define the goal of a
socialist society: "Our ideal is ... a society where all people live united in
harmony as one big family" (Kim II Sung, "The Duty of Mothers in the
Education of Children," speech at the National Meeting of Mothers, Nov. 16,
1961, in Kim II Sung, On the Work o/the Women's Union [Pyongyang, FLPH,
1971), p. 4); c.f. Kim II Sung, "On the Duties of Educational Workers in the Up­
bringing of the Children and Youth," speech at a National Conference of Active
Educational Workers, April 25, 1961 [Pyongyang, FLPH, 1970), p. 6). But
cf. Lee, op. cit., p. 28, for condemnations of "family-ism"; Shinn et aI, Area
Handbook, op. cit., chapter on the family.
29. The Supreme People's Assembly is roughly the equivalent of Congress
or Parliament-i.e., the highest large assembly elected by universal suffrage.
As in all Communist countries, this body is relatively powerless. According
to Pak II Bun, op. cit., women made up the lower figure of 30 percent of all
deputies at local levels resulting from the elections in 1979. Cf. note 53 below
re the SPA.
30. If so, this would seem to mark a big change from the situation described
education, women account for 80 percent of all teachers. 31
Women make up 48 percent of the work force in the
economy as a whole. In culture and the arts, especially the
latter, women playa major role, and account for a very high
percentage of Merited Actors and Actresses, and of People's
Actors and Actresses. 32
The relationship between the Korean Workers' Party and
women [is that] the women's movement is a very important
component of the social revolution. The Korean Democratic
Women's Union is the transmission belt of the Party,33 and
President Kim II Sung has said that the situation is like the
pear which has seed and flesh: the seed is the Party and the
flesh is the [Women's] Union. The main aim of the [Women's]
Union is to defend the policies advanced by the Party and to
implement them thoroughly.
The inequality of women was abolished since President
Kim II Sung provided women with the Law on the Equality
of the Sexes on July 30,1946. 34 That is why women are provided
with the practical conditions so that there is no inequality in
social status between women and men. Tomorrow is the 31st
anniversary of the proclamation of the Law and so I regard
this meeting as [especially] timely.
Well, as you referred to the report made by President Kim
II Sung on the 30th anniversary [of the founding of the KWP],
that is precisely the main aim-of freeing women, especially
from the burdens of the family. As you said correctly, the
problem of sexual inequality was already abolished. 35 We have
traversed the democratic revolution, the socialist revolution
and socialist construction. 36 Women's status has been tremen­
by Kim II Sung in 1971, when he said: "Especially in the countryside most
of those who hold the post of some sort of 'chiefs' or go about with brief
cases under their arms are men" ("On the Revolutionization ... of Women,"
op. cit., p. 10). The infonnation given us also seems to be contradicted by
data in Pak, "Women at Work," op. cit. which states that 30 percent of the
chairpersons of farm management boards are women. What does "leading
personnel" really mean: just chairpersons, or all members of the boards, or
something in between?
31. Pak, "Women at Work," says women "account for 70-80 percent of the
doctors and teachers"-a typically vague statistic. Cf. note 55 below re doctors.
32. Different grades.
33. This is a standard (and depressing) formulation; see, e.g., Kim, "On the
Revolutionization ... ", op. cit., p. 29: "I finnly believe that the Women's
Union, our Party's transmission belt, will faithfully implement its revolutionary
tasks so as to meet the Party's expectations with credit."
34. Full text of the law in Appendix below. Formulations of the kind "the
Great Leader provided us with ... " are now obligatory. They mask the real
history of mass struggle by Korean women, on which, unfortunately, detailed
information is very scarce. It is interesting that an interview two Soviet writers
had with the then head of the KDWU, Pak Chong Ae [given as Pak Den Ae],
by all accounts a most remarkable person, in the late 1940s does not contain
a single mention of Kim II Sung's name (Aleksandr Gitovich and Boris Bursov,
Mi Videli Koreyu [We Saw Korea) [Leningrad, "Mo1odaya Gvardiya," 1948].
pp. 36-38). Pak Chong Ae played a prominent role in the 1951 investigation
by the delegation of the WIDF (see note 8 above).
The only Western correspondent to visit the DPRK between 1945 and the
start of the Korean War was a woman, Anna Louise Strong, but her report'
contain only fragmentary information about the position of women. See Strong.
Inside North Korea: An Eye-Witness Report (Montrose, California. n.d.
[1951 ?). This is a revised edition of the 1949 edition of the same title; cf. the
articles by Strong in Soviet Russia Today (New York). October and November,
1947; February and December. 1948).
35. We did not say this.
36. Standard phrases for the successive stages since 1945.
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dously strengthened, and we have come through the final stage
of freeing women. So we regard this measure as one of the
important measures finally to conclude the freedom of women.
The food industry is only one aspect. We have to improve the
bringing up of children and other measures so that women can
in practice be freed from all burdens. During the anti-Japanese
revolutionary armed struggle President Kim II Sung worked
out the plan for bringing up children and shortly after Liberation
[1945] he instructed that kindergartens and nurseries be built.
Now this problem has been tremendously solved.
As you said, Marx and Engels paid attention to the
question of the family. Our policy is to bring up children in
kindergartens and nurseries and this is a Communist policy.
We have a thirty-year history of bringing up children in this
way. There are 3,500,000 children being brought up in
kindergartens and nurseries, of which there are 60,000
throughout the country.
President Kim II Sung has called children "the kings of
the country. "37 [We have enacted] many policies on children:
for example, the 6th Session of the Supreme People's Assembly
carried a decree on bringing up children; and at the 5th Congress
of the KWP [1970] it was said that in order finally to solve
the women question, we should press forward with the program
to bring up children [sic].'" We have a principle of setting up
kindergartens and nurseries, and near the shops where the
mothers work. There is a nationwide network like a fishing
net. This means that there is no such problem as the one you
have raised about the division of labor in the family between
husband and wife. There is cooperation between them. If the
husband comes home first, he should do something. We hope
that this question when explained will be clear. Children are
brought up at state expense. If there is pressing and ironing
[to be done] it goes to the laundries. The foodstuffs industry
has been developed, so food can be bought at any time. J9 So
what is there left to do in the family? Perhaps clean the family?
Or pack [away] things used during the night?"') Or cooking
rice. These things can be done in a cooperative way between
men and women. As regards cooking, this is a job women
37. We failed to ask what the significance of this monarcho-sexist formula
might be (neither of us understood Korean). Nor did we ask if girls were called
"queens of the country."
38. Kim II Sung is on the record (not subsequently modified, so far as I know)
to the effect that bringing up children is primarily a woman's task; e.g., "By
nature, it is up to the women to bring upchildren." ("The Communist Education
and Upbringing of Children is an Honourable Revolutionary Duty of Nursery
School and Kindergarten Teachers," Address to the National Congress of
Nursery School and Kindergarten Teachers, Oct. 20, 1966, in Kim, On the
Work of the Women's Union, op. cit., p. 52). Cf. Kim in 1961: "Mother has
to bear the major responsibility for home education. Her responsibility is
greater than father's." ("The Duty of Mothers in the Education of Children"
[Nov. 16. 1961], ibid., p. 16).
39. In 1977 shops. including food shops, were open late on weekdays and
open on Sundays in the capital Pyongyang. On random visits to shops in the
city center, it seemed to me that women were doing about two-thirds of the
shopping for food (in early evening). There is reportedly an extensive system
of food ordering from home and delivery to homes; there were some
"take-aways" (in American English "take-out"). But I do not have enough
evidence to be able to evaluate how widespread or effective these services
really are.
40. So far as we could see and find out, most (perhaps all) Korean families
sleep on a thin mattress on the floor; all the "bed" gear is taken up each
morn in!! and stored until it is put down again for the night.
have traditionally done, and as their natural duty.
Q. Did you say "natural"?
A. Yes. Well, we see the family as the cell of the society,
and as such the family should be healthy and the people in our
country-both husbands and wives-have enjoyed the great
care taken by President Kim II Sung and they know how
important the family is. Husbands go to their work where they
are constantly kept educated. Women the same. So they know
how important the family is. Family work is done on a voluntary
basis. Such problems as you have raised do not arise. There
is nobody in the family who refuses to do something that should
be done.
The most extreme form of exploitation of women,
prostitution, has apparently (and I believe prob­
ably in fact) been eradicated; the same goes for
concubinage. This marks a major advance over
both the past and South Korea. Similarly, it seems
most unlikely that the crudest forms of violence
against women, such as male goon squads pouring
human excrement over women workers, which
do occur in the South, could possibly occur in
the North.
Now, as to single women. There are categories of such
women: a) who have no children; b) who have lost a husband
who dedicated his all to the country; c) who have lost sons and
daughters who died by dedicating their service to the country;
d) and some others. These women have the benefit of compre­
hensive social services; they are cared for by the shop where
they work. Also the neighborhood units take care of them.
Thus, they are respected by the state and socially-therefore,
they have virtually no worries at all. If they are disabled, they
naturally get state support. When they are old, they go to an
Old People's Single Home.
As for wages, there is no difference. There is equal pay
for equal work. Women [in fact] have more benefits than men.
Women with three children aged thirteen or less get eight hours'
pay for six hours' work.4l There are women's sanatoria, rest
homes, maternity hospitals and children's hospitals.
As for birth control, there is no such policy.
41. The law also provides for 77 days paid pregnancy leave for women-35
days before giving birth and 42 days after (V. Andreyev and N. Beryozkin,
"How the DPRK Deals with Social Questions," FEA, no. I, 1981, p. 64).
The phrase about 8 hours' pay for 6 hours work reportedly means that women
who have 3 or more children only have to do 6 hours work, but get a full
day's pay anyway. Women with three or more children under the age of 12
also only have to work a 5-day week (all others work 6-day weeks) (Pak,
"Women at Work"). As for wages: it is very hard to know exactly what
proportion of total income they represent; I have guesstimated a figure of
roughly half (see my "The North Korean Enigma," New Left Review, no. 127
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Q. What does that mean? The state does not have a policy of
actively promoting it? Or is there no such thing?
A. The former-because there is no necessity for it in view
of the labor force and the scale of the economy [sic] and the
speed of the development of the economy; the state needs a
bigger reserve work force. But there are some cases where
women are not well and in such cases that is another thing.42
And if the woman suffers any hindrance to her social activities
because she already has two or three children, if she wishes,
then an abortion may be carried out.43 There is no abortion for
unmarried women because women are educated in our country
in Communist morality, and they know how to live in our
society. There is no such condition that unmarried women can
have an abortion.
Q. What about if pregnancy was the result of rape?
A. We have no such instances so far [women laugh], though
there are many in South Korea.
Q. Does this mean there is no rape at all in the DPRK? People
in the West may find it very hard to believe this, and can you
put a date on the statement? Can you say that there has not
been a single case of rape in the DPRK since the end of the
Korean War (1953]?
A. So far as I know, there is no such instance, and I am forty
years old. 44 As for the age of marriage: the average age [sc.
until recently] ranged from 27 to 28 because women and men
graduate from colleges and universities between the ages of 23
and 24. After graduation they work for two or three years, so
naturally they get married about the age of 27 to 28. But these
days we find it is even later-in the case of women the average
age is 29; that is, they work more after graduation. And for
men it is 30. 45
According to the law, citizens are entitled to get married at
the age of "full 17" [17 years and 9 months]. Before Liberation
the average age [of marriage] was 20 to 25, but it has changed
as the years have gone by.
About women in the Army. For women, like men, military
service is not obligatory.46 Women are engaged in hospitals as
doctors and nurses, and in communications; and women in the
Army can get married, but not so many do.
Q. Is there an age limit-high and low-for women in the
Army? And what is the highest rank currently held by a woman
in the armed forces?
A. Women generally do two or three years service. I don't
know what woman currently holds the highest rank in the armed
forces. But some women hold the position of head of a hospital
with the rank of colonel. There are many such women.
About the wedding ceremony. Both men and women have
the right to select their counterpart of their own will, but in
that case they may have the agreement of their parents.
Q. What does that mean? Would it be unusual not to ask?
A. It is normal [to ask]. But men and women have the right
[not to ask].47 The ceremony is generally attended by about
twenty persons from the family and the work place,
congratulating them on their marriage. It is a very simple
In the past there were, apparently, cases where parents had
the right to decide, instead of the children; they were influenced
by Confucian ideas. These disappeared soon after Liberation. 48
Q. Do parents have any civil rights over their children after
the age of ''full 17"?
A. According to the law, anyone can get married at the age
of full 17, but in practice they get married between 29 and 30.
The children who get married have an independent position,
so I don't think such a question as you have raised about parents
exercising civil rights over their children arises; but parents
[1981], and "The North Korean Model," World Development, Vol. 9, no.
9/10 [1981]): i.e., a differential of 20 percent in male: female wages would
translate into a differential of only 10 percent in total income. Even the
well-informed Soviet scholars Andreyev and Beryozkin imply some difficulty
over this problem (see note 26 to their article. op. cit. above, p. 60). Cf. note
56 below.
45. The North Korean fisherman cited in note 44 said that a marriage could
42. In 1980 an American Friends Service Committee delegation was told that
not be registered if the bride's age was below 26 and the bridegroom's below
no contraceptives were available (AFSC, Korea Report, no. 9, Feb. 1981, p.
30 (p. 21). Edith Lederer was told that people did not "usually" marry until
3). On the other hand, in 1979 a correspondent for AP, Edith Lederer, reported
they were 24-25 years old (op. cit., p. 69). In 1971 Kim II Sung told the
that she was told by a member of the Central Committee of the KDWU, Kang
KDWU: "Women on their part must strive to learn more and work more for
Chun-kum, that intrauterine devices were available. Birth-control pills, she
the Party and the revolution even if their marriage is delayed a bit ... "("On
was told, were discouraged "because of possible long-term side-effects," i.e.,
the Revolutionization ... , " op. cit., p. 10).
it was not clear if they were sometimes available (Edith Lederer, "Love and
Marriage," AP report dated May 6, 1979, in: Korea Herald, "Pvongyallg
46. This is the official position. It is impossible to be sure. Western sources
Pingpong Diplomacy" -What Achieved and Not Achieved (Seoul, Korea
insist that military service is compUlsory. My own feeling after being in the
Herald, 1979), p. 69). Like most visitors to the DPRK, I got the impression
DPRK is that it may be, but it is also possible that social pressures are so
(as suggested by our KDWU interlocutors) that there was a labor shortage.
intense that it does not have to be: no one would dream of not volunteering.
But a recent (and well-informed) Soviet source states flatly that "the country
Western and South Korean sources suggest that men are not allowed to marry
has a reserve of labour" (G1ebova and Mikheyev, FEA, op. cit., p. 89). Some
during military service, though full-time professional servicemen (and
reports have suggested that women are given special awards for having six or
presumably servicewomen) can.
more children.
47. Edith Lederer was given a slightly different angle: she was told that young
43. Edith Lederer was told by the director of the Pyongyang university hospital
people do (by implication always) ask their parents for permission (Lederer,
that abortions "are sometimes performed" but was not told under what
op. cit., p. 68). The North Korean fisherman cited in note 44 says the state
circumstances they were permitted (Lederer, op. cit., p. 69).
allocates some food and alcohol for a wedding celebration, but limits
"attendants" (meaning not c1ear-J.H.) to five (p. 21).
44. We failed to ask the necessary follow-up questions: l) Would our
interlocutor know if such a thing had happened? 2) If there had been a rape,
48. This version of events, apart from being inherently rather hard to believe,
and she knew about it, would she be allowed to tell us, if official policy lays
also clashes with Kim II Sung's repeated stress on the long-tenn nature of the
it down "that there is no such thing in the DPRK." Although there might be
struggle to eradicate old ideas. For example: "The material conditions of sociey
determine the consciousness of man, and the latter changes slower than the
no way of evaluating with certainty the answer to these questions, especially
the second one, I think we should still have asked them. The Seoul magazine
former." ("On the Duties of Educational Workers in the Upbringing of the
Vantage Point carried a text of an interview with a North Korean fisherman
Children and Youth," 1961, p. 2). Cf. his remarks to the KDWU in 1971 on
who stayed in the South in 1978, Oh Ri-sop, who said he had heard of two
the survival of old ideas: "There are some delinquent children nowadays ...
cases of rape while he was in Nampo City and that the culprits had been
[T]hey are mostly the children of unrevolutionized mothers." (sic) ("On the
executed in public (VP, Vol. I, no. 5, p. 21).
Revolutionization ... , " p. 4).
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still feel obliged to help children with wedding ceremonies and
Let me add something about property status. We underwent
the war, which destroyed everything. Here there are no rich
people or poor people; there are no people with more, or less,
property. Everyone is more or less the same.
As for divorce, there are very few cases. It is allowed only
under the following circumstances: (a) health conditions-that
the family cannot exist on health conditions.
Q. What does that mean?
A. That they cannot have a sexual life. The other case
(b) would be referred to a court and the court may approve. 49
As for remarriage: women who have lost husbands through
illness can get remarried and the court [sc. the law?-J.H.]
allows them to do so. But old women, since all conditions are
provided by the state, they have no worries. Such cases do not
arise very frequently. If a woman wants to, she would be
allowed. She has no inconvenience [sc. no obstacle is placed
in her way?-J.H.]. She does not feel so [sic].
There are no cases of women who have divorces from their
husbands and want to get married again. so
Q. It will be difficult for people in the West to believe that.
Can you put a time schedule on this?
A. There were very few divorces in the past. Since all
conditions are provided, and society is developing, [there are
no cases of this].
An under-age woman who wants to get married cannot.
There are no instances of this here.
And about women's traditional dress. This is four or five
thousand years old, and it suits women very well, because it
is convenient to work in,S! and it suits the natural characteristics
as far as women are concerned and there is a very strong love
for the dress by women. This is why women wear traditional
national dress. But this does not mean that this is the only
kind. So the dresses are chosen by women according to the
conditions, the necessity of life. And women like to wear it,
especially when they receive such distinguished visitors as
today-and I believe that you find it very beautiful.
Men have a traditional national dress, but this we feel is not
suitable for labor and is inconvenient to the activities that men
do. So men have different clothes.
49. There was no follow-up Oft this. The criterion of venereal disease
mentioned by another official was not mentioned here.
50. The same sort of bland reply was given to Edith Lederer about divorce
in general: "We can hardly find divorced couples because young couples marry
according to their own choice so there can be no quarrel between them."
(Lederer, p. 70). According to this argument, there should hardly be any
divorces in the USA or Britain. What may/must be different is the degree of
social pressure exerted against divorce-and, perhaps, the lessening of
expectation via the diminished chance of divorce and, especially for women,
the virtual impossibility of starting a new life, including a new sexual
relationship, after divorce. In an earlier discussion with a male official, we
indicated that the only way we could understand that divorces requested by
women were so low or non-existent was due to the enormous social pressures
against women; in the end the official said, in effect, that no male in the DPRK
would marry a divorced woman whose husband was still alive. In 1961 Kim
II Sung reported that some men wanted to divorce wives who had not produced
sons. Kim called this "immoral." (Kim, "The Duty of Mothers ... , " op.
cit., p. 14).
51. This is very dubious; it seemed to me most unsuited to work in. Reports
on whether it is even comfortable for non-work vary depending on whom one
is talking with.
Well, the women's movement has a history of fifty years.
Women played a great role in the Anti-Japanese Women's
Association during the anti-Japanese armed struggle and
participated in armed struggle like men. S2
There are many cases of women playing distinguished
merited roles.
I hope my answers could satisfy.
Supplementary Questions
Q. You have given us the figure of 33 percent of all deputies
at all levels, but could you break this down between upper and
lower echelons? For example, what percentage ofthe members
of the Supreme People's Assembly are women?
A. The SPA has 541 members, of whom 112 are women. S3
Q. You gave us the figure of 80 percent of all teachers being
women, but again, can you break this down? What are the
percentages for universities, on the one hand, and schools, on
the other?
A. The figures are not available, I am sorry. S4 But in
Pyongyang, for example, at the Institute of Light Industry, the
Rector is a woman, and at the Institute for Foreign Languages
both the Rector and the Vice-Rector are women. At Pyongyang
52. At this point our interlocutor launched into a ritualistic recital of current
mythology about the alleged role of Kim n Sung's mother, Kang Ban Sok,
setting up the first radical women's organization in 1926. There is no
independent evidence that anything of the sort occurred. The role of Kim II
Sung's mother has tended to be inflated (and invented) roughly in tandem with
the mythologization of the past of Kim himself. Kang Ban Sok is called
"Mother of Korea" while Kim II Sung's first wife (and the mother of
heir-designate Kim long 11), Kim long Suk, is called "Mother of Revolution."
So far as can be ascertained, Kim Jong Suk did indeed play an active role in
the anti-Japanese struggle. When I asked about her in front of a picture of her
in the Museum of the Revolution in Pyongyang I was first told: "She gave her
all for the Great Leader." When I asked what that meant, I was told (after
discussion between officials): "She even dried the Great Leader's wet clothes
in her bosom."
53. Pak II Bun states that the percentage of women in the SPA resulting from
the 1978 election was 20.8 ("Women at Work"). Combining this figure with
the one given for women in the local assemblies (cf. note 29 above), there
was a slight decline in the percentage of women in all assemblies in the late
1970s. The Australian Myra Roper, who visited the DPRK in the early 1970s,
states .that 25% of the SPA were women then. If so, then the 1977 figures
indicate a decline in women's representation. However the reliability of
Roper's data is severely undermined by the fact that she can write in the same
paragraph that "Kim, like Mao, is a feminist. . ." (Myra Roper, "DPRK-The
Phoenix Country," Eastern Horizon [Hong Kong], Vol. 13, no. 5 (1974), p.
60). So far as I can make out, there is currently one woman in the DPRK
cabinet, Minister of Finance Yun Gi long. There is (or was until very recently)
one woman Secretary of the Central Committee of the KWP. The most
important woman in the country is probably Kim Song Ae, the head of the
KDWU-and the wife of Kim II Sung. The fact that the DPRK refuses to
release any information on women's participation in the KWP and in its leading
bodies bodes ill for women having a leading role in them. An examination of
the Central Committee in 1980 made it appear that about 4 percent of that
body was made up of women.
54. The figures for teachers probably include kindergarten workers, almost
all of whom are women. In a discussion later the same day at Kim II Sung
University, Pyongyang, the country's top university, we were told that \0
percent of the teachers there were women and 25-30 percent of the students,
varying according to faculty. The group which hosted us there, made up of
eight staff and students (in rigidly hierarchical relationships to each other),
was exclusively male-but then so was our group of two. The AFSC delegation
reported that in 1980 20 percent of those with higher education were women
(Korean Report, op. cit. p. 4): a major advance over the situation in 1961
when Kim II Sung said that no woman had yet received a doctorate (Kim,
"The Duty of Mothers ... "op. cit., p. 31).
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Normal College, the Kim Hyung Jik [Kim II Sung's
father-J.H.] Normal College, the Rector is a woman. In
colleges, polytechnics and universities, there are many women
rectors and many chairs and faculties are filled by women.
Q. You have given us the figure for women as a percentage
of the total work force, and some indication of where they
make up the majority of the labor force, 55 and you have also
stated that there is equal pay for equal work. But it would be
interesting to know what is the average ratio of women's pay
compared to men's pay throughout the economy as a whole.
A. There is no difference.
Q. But from what you have said, it is obvious there are more
women in agriculture and more men, for example, in heavy
industry. It is also clear that wages are not the same in all
sectors of the economy and for all jobs. Therefore, it is clear
that not all women are earning the same wages as all men.
What are the averages for the whole economy?
A. I am sorry, I do not know in detail. I agree with you that
there are differences between different occupations, and some
fields have more men and therefore there must be a difference
[in the average wage].56
THE LAW ON EQUALITY OF THE SEXES IN NORTH KOREA (July 30, 1946) For 36 years Korean women had been subject to incessant
insult and cruel exploitation by Japanese imperialism. They
had neither political nor economic right, and were denied to
participate in cultural, social or political life. Medieval,
feudalistic family relationship accentuated the political and
economic oppression of women. Maltreatment, insult and
illiteracy were the lot the masses of the Korean working women
had to suffer. The Red Army emancipated north Korea from
the Japanese colonial yoke, and this brought about a change
in the social position of women. Various democratic reforma­
55. Roper states that 75 percent of doctors were women in the early 1970s
(Roper, op. cit., p. 60). This may be true, but two qualifications are in order:
I} the DPRK definition of "doctor" is not clear; 2} in most Communist
countries the increased access of women to such jobs can be-and often
is-accompanied by a downgrading of the job in both pay and status. In 1978
Kim lamented the absence of women in finance and banking in rather strong
terms: "At present women make up nearly half the labour force in [the]
economy. But their number in the financial and banking establishments is not
large. This shows that our functionaries are not yeat clear of the tendency to
despise women. There is no reason why women are unfit to work in the
financial and banking institutions. Rather, they can work better [sic] than men.
From now on these institutions should take on a large number of women."
("Let Us Step Up Socialist Construction by Effective Financial Management,"
speech at the National Meeting of Financial and Bank Workers, Dec. 23,
1978, Pyongyang Times, Dec. 30, 1978). The tone of Kim's remarks is both
unmistakably dirigiste and somehwat magical.
56. The fact that there is not yet equal pay is clearly, if obliquely, stated by
Pale II Bun, who writes: "There is a growing tendency for equal pay for men
and women for the sake of real equality of the sexed [sc. sexes]" ("Women
at Work," op. cit.). This remark can sit right alongside the statement that
"Korean women have been under the equal wage system for 40 years." In
brief, they have been under an "equal wage system" (i.e., a system whose
proclaimed target is equal wages) under which wages are not yet equal.
tions carried out in the country have provided conditions for
freeing women from inequality of political, economic, cultural
and family life, which they had suffered. With a view to
liquidating the remnants of Japanese colonial rule, reforming
the old feudalistic relationship between man and woman and
enabling women to take part in all fields of cultural, social and
political life, the Provisional People's Committee of North
Korea decides:
Article I. Women shall have equal rights with men in all
realms of state, economic, cultural, social and political life.
Article 2. Women shall be on a par with men in the right
to elect or to be elected in the local state organs or in the
highest state organ.
Article 3. Women shall have equal right with men in work
and the rights to equal pay, social insurance and education.
Article 4. Women shall have the right to free marriage
like men. Unfree, forced marriage without consent of the
contracting parties is prohibited.
Article 5. When conjugal relations get into trouble and
cannot be continued any longer, women, too, are entitled to
free divorce on an equal footing with men. A mother shall be
allowed to sue her divorced husband for the cost of bringing
up children. The suits for divorce and children's nursing
expenses shall be dealt with by the People's Court.
Article 6. The age of marriage shall be full 17 or above
for woman and full 18 or above for man.
Article 7. Polygamy, a hereditary custom based on
medieval, feudalistic relations, and the evil practices of
infringing upon the rights of women, such as selling and buying
girls as wives or concubines, shall be hereafter prohibited.
Both licensed and unlicensed prostitution, and kisaeng-girl
keeping system (kisaeng call-office and kisaeng school) shall
be prohibited. Those who violate this shall be punished by law.
Article 8. Women shall have the right of succession to
the property including land like men and, when divorced, the
right to distribution of property including land.
Article 9. With the proclamation of this law, the laws and
rules of Japanese imperialism with regard to the Korean
women's right are annulled.
This law shall become effective as from the day of its
Source: On the Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People's Republic of
Korea (Pyongyang, FLPH, 1975), pp. 312-313.
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Interview with Kang Ning-hsiang by Corinna-Barbara Francis*
For almost two decades Kang Ning-hsiang has been an
active political figure on Taiwan and a key member of the
tang-wai, the unofficial opposition to the ruling Nationalist
Party (the Kuomintang, hereinafter KMT). Many in Taiwan
and many Taiwanese abroad consider him a leading figure in
the opposition movement.
A native Taiwanese, Kang was born and raised in Taipei,
and his political career has been closely linked to that city. His
first introduction to politics was in his parents' home where an
informal 'open house' was held during which people from all
walks of life would discuss the issues of the day. After working
for some years, including a job at a gas station, Kang decided
to try his luck at politics. In 1969 he ran and was elected to
the Taipei City Council as a tang-wai member. He held that
position for three years. During that time he became known
for his radical criticism of the KMT and his outspoken support
of the tang-wai. In 1972 Kang ran for and was elected to the
Legislative Assembly. He was in the Assembly for three
successive terms until 1983 when he was defeated in his
re-election bid. From 1984 to 1985 Kang spent eight months
in the U.S. in "academic retreat." He is now back in Taiwan
and active in politics. For many years Kang has sponsored a
number of the leading tang-wai magazines including The
Eighties, The Asian, and The Current.
The tang-wai, meaning literally 'outside the Party', is a
set of diverse groups which have in common their opposition
to the KMT or the nature of KMT rule on Taiwan. Although
the tang-wai is not recognized by the KMT as a legal political
party (and there are a number of legal opposition parties), it
undoubtedly constitutes the real political opposition on the
island. The tang-wai regularly fields candidates in local and
national elections, receiving around 25-30% of the popular
vote. Through dozens of political and literary journals, it has
had a role in shaping public opinion.
In this interview, Kang Ning-hsiang discusses a wide
range of issues regarding Taiwan's domestic and international
politics. In the first section, which focuses on domestic
questions, he begins with a general consideration of Taiwan's
political and economic growth. He then goes into a more
detailed discussion of the tang-wai: its origins and recent
developments; its political goals and strategy; its internal
conflicts and ideological debates; its role in the democratization
of Taiwan's political system, and more. In this section Kang
also discusses the role of ethnicity in politics on Taiwan and
the relationship between the tang-wai and the Taiwanese
Independence Movement.
The second section deals with international issues. Here
Kang discusses his view of the various models for Taiwan's
international status and sets out his position on what the nature
of ties between Taipei and Peking should be. He also discusses
his view of the role of the U.S. and the current developments
on the mainland.
While critical of the KMT's resistance to democratic
reforms on Taiwan, Kang rejects the views of more radical
elements within the tang-wai, those advocating a strategy of
mobilizing a mass movement for national independence. Since
the Kaohsiung incident' Kang has strongly opposed continua-
* This interview was conducted by the author in Chinese in January 1985 and
translated by the author.
I. On Dec. 10. 1979 a parade was organized by various opposition groups
to commemorate International Human Rights Day. In the course of the day
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
tion of the radical line of the Formosa period. 2 In his view,
radical efforts to change Taiwan's domestic or international
status quo have only, and can only, result in disaster. He
believes that both the domestic and international interests of
Taiwan lie in the mutual efforts of the people and the
government to peacefully establish a democratic political
system on the island.
The Interview
CBF: What is the "tang-wai," or the "non-partisan" move­
ment? Efforts to expand political pluralism and democr~tic
rights have a long history in Taiwan. Should the tang-wal be
considered synonymous with this movement? If not, what. are
the differences? What are the major goals of the tang-wa!?
KNH: Essentially the democratic movement in Taiwan is a
movement in which the local people seek power for
themselves-power to make their own decisions. This has been
a quest for some form of self-government-that we should be
able to govern ourselves. There are a number of reasons why
the situation appears so complex at present. First, for the last
one hundred years Taiwan has been through two distinct
periods: one period of fifty years of Japanese rule and now
almost forty years of KMT rule. The strategies and ways of
thinking of the movement for self-government have taken
different forms in each of these periods. Secondly, in the
different stages which Taiwan has been through different issues
have become critical. Finally the pluralization of Taiwanese
society has made its political movements more comple~.
In the earliest phase of the tang-wai movement III the
I 950s an attempt was made by both mainlanders and Taiwanese
together to organize a political party. This was an extremel.y
good approach. Unfortunately it did not succeed. After thiS
initial period the democratic movement took on a more local
character. During this period Taiwanese politicians concerned
themselves with local issues and did not raise issues of national
Concerning the relationship between the tang-wai a~d the
democratic movement we can say that at different stages III the
political development of Taiwan the democratic movement has
had different political opponents and has concentrated on
distinct political issues. The tang-wai should be considered one
stage in the hundred-year history of the democratic movement
of Taiwan in which the people have demanded power for
CBF: Taiwan's spectacular economic growth is well-known.
What do you think has been the impact of this growth on
Taiwan's political system? Do you think it has changed th~
relationship between the Kuomintang (KMT) and the tang-wa!
Ill,,,t of the key opposition leader, were arrested. and eight of them were
subsequently tried and sentenced to long prison terms. The events of that day
arc now referred to as the Kaohsiung incident. and it marked tbe end of the
more radical period of the opposition movement.
2. The period from 1975 until 1979 when F(!rmosa Maga:ill(, and the group
associated with it were in the ascendant is known as the Formo,a penod. The
period came 10 an abrupt end with the arrest of key opp",iti"n leaders during
the Kaohsiung incielent
and if so, how?
KNH: The question of the impact of the growth of the
economy on politics must be considered in the larger context
of changes in Taiwan's international position. The economy
has been one area in which the KMT has done quite well. It
was only after the combined effect of the major setbacks-the
withdrawal of Taiwan from the U.N. in 1972 and the U.S.
recognition of the People's Republic of China in 1978-that
the KMT's legitimacy was seriously challenged.
Before 1972, the year Taiwan withdrew from the U.N.,
the power structure on Taiwan had at its core the KMT, big
industries run by mainland Chinese, and the national industries.
But after 1972, as the economy developed, private industry
was allowed to develop even further. This has given greater
power to the class of private smalI- and medium-level
businessmen, most of whom are Taiwanese. Technocrats and
certain sectors of the bureaucracy have also been able to
increase their power because of their influence over economic
policy. At the same time we can see the gradual decline of the
influence of mainland Chinese over big business and national
Another result of Taiwan's economic growth has been
rapid urbanization. A great many farmers have left the
countryside for the cities. This has created large pockets of
unskilled labor in the cities. Many urban problems developed
which left the majority of the people dissatisfied. These
dissatisfied elements have swelled the ranks of the tang-wai.
Another result of economic growth has been the movement
of large numbers of people abroad for business and education.
These people have become messengers bringing news back to
Taiwan about the world situation. This has helped break down
the KMT's monopoly on news and information, and this new
information has benefited the tang-wai by creating new ideas
which have in tum created new demands. People have begun
to see the need for a second political force to challenge the
KMT, to pressure it to carry out reform. The tang-wai has
become this secondary political force.
CBF: What impact has economic development had on the
political base of the tang-wai? How has the latter changed?
KNH: In the early stage of the tang-wai its main supporters
were extreme Taiwanese nationalists, dissidents, and lower
income groups. With the rapid growth of the economy the
tang-wai's political base has expanded to include small- and
medium-level entrepreneurs and businessmen and parts of the
middle class. Because big business has been favored by the
government's economic policies, many of the small- and
middle-level Taiwanese businessmen are dissatisfied with the
KMT and have given political support to the tang-wai. In
addition, many intellectuals, who advocate the establishment
of a democratic political system and believe that for this it is
necessary to have at least two political pa~ies: have also
supported the tang-wai in greater numbers. ThiS gives an Idea
of the changing political base of the tang-wai.
CBF: How would you describe the major changes in the
tang-wai movement since the mid- to late 1970.1:
KNH: First, there have been important changes as far as the
members of the movement are concerned. The supporters of
the tang-wai in the late 1970s were from the post -WWII
generation. This group was educated under the. KMT. It IS very
different in character from the supporters of the democracy
movement in earlier periods. Secondly. the issues that have
been raised since the late 1970s are no longer strictly of a local
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character but are issues of national concern such as martial
law, Taiwan's international status, self-rule, and human rights.
Third, the movement has regained its island-wide character.
The movement moved from the local level to the national level.
Since 1972, when the KMT opened up the decision-making
process at the national level by allowing local Taiwanese
politicians to enter the Legislative Assembly, it has been
possible for local representative bodies to influence the higher
levels. These four points represent important trends within the
tang-wai movement since the mid- to late 1970s.
CBF: What do you see as the major dynamics in the tang-wai
movement since the Kaohsiung incident in 1979?
KNH: In the situation immediately following the Kaohsiung
incident there was a general feeling of hopelessness within the
tang-wai, although within a short period it did regain its
strength and experience new victories. Beginning in 1979, the
year of the Kaohsiung incident, there suddenly emerged
numerous factions within the movement. To begin with there
had already been the group of elected officials consisting of
the Taipei City Councilmen, city mayors and magistrates, the
Provincial Assemblymen, the Legislative Assemblymen, etc.
This group would qualify as one faction of the tang-wai.
Secondly, the families of the prisoners of the Formosa period
emerged as a more cohesive group. In the past the KMT jailed
a lot of people. When the men were imprisoned the women
would not have dared to protest openly. No one was expecting
that when the men were jailed after the Kaohsiung incident,
their wives would come out and run for office. So the wives
of these prisoners constitute a separate faction. Third, the
Presbyterians can be considered a faction of their own after
their deepened involvement in politics during the Formosa
period. Fourth, during the 35 years of KMT rule on Taiwan a
lot of people have been imprisoned. These people have
gradually been released and have also formed a separate faction
within the tang-wai. Fifth, the young generation of university
graduates, especially those studying literature and the arts who
have trouble finding jobs after graduation, have joined in large
numbers and now constitute a distinct faction. Sixth, there is
the China Tide group which is supportive of reunification with
the mainland. Finally, some doctors, lawyers, and professors
have increasingly concerned themselves with politics and have
taken positions critical of the KMT and supportive of a
two-party system. They have begun to participate in the
tang-wai and could now be said to constitute their own faction.
Before 1979 these various groups were not all linked with
the tang-wai. The tang-wai was associated primarily with the
group of elected officials. But even among this latter group,
which of them belonged to the tang-wai and which did not has
never been very clear. In the past the tang-wai had been limited
to internal competition. The movement spent much of its time
and energy struggling against itself. But in 1980, before the
1981 province-wide elections, we organized a nomination
procedure which indicated clearly to the electorate who was a
favored tang-wai candidate and who was not. In the past it had
never been very clear what the tang-wai was and who belonged
to it. But with this new procedure everyone wanted to come
out and prove they were the real tang-wai. This was an
extremely interesting development. On the one hand it created
a split among the elected officials between those who had been
nominated and those who had not. On the other hand it enabled
the tang-wai to move away from competing against itself to
competing against the KMT.
Now this new situation of competition between the KMT
and the tang-wai raised many questions and problems. These
were compounded by the multiplication of factions and
ideological perspectives within the movement. What kind of
relationship should exist between the KMT and the tang-wai?
What attitude should the tang-wai take toward the KMT? On
this issue each faction had a different view. For the group of
elected officials this was not a major problem-these people
had had constant contact with the KMT in Assembly meetings,
etc., so they had already an established relationship. But what
type of relationships were the political prisoners supposed to
establish with the ruling party? And what about the China Tide
group? Being primarily interested in reunification their strategy
has been simply to weaken the KMT as much as possible. So
why should they even establish any ties with the KMT?
Another major development in the tang-wai occurred in
1982 when a group of tang-wai representatives visited the U.S.
By helping to establish links between the tang-wai and the
U. S. government this visit raised the political profile of the
movement, giving it an international identity. In the past the
U.S. had dealt only with the KMT and the tang-wai had been
completely out of the picture. The KMT has always claimed
to be the only spokesman on Taiwan. So when the KMT would
say the U.S. takes such and such position the tang-wai would
have no way of knowing whether it was true or not. So after
this visit which I participated in the KMT no longer had a
monopoly on international ties. The tang-wai's profile was
raised to a new level. We had established an international
channel linking the tang-wai and the U.S. This new situation
also created a new set of questions and tensions within the
movement. What should the nature of our ties with the U.S.
be? How should the issue of U.S. weapons supply to Taiwan
be used by the tang-wai? Should it be a political tool to pressure
the KMT to reform itself and change its politics? These
problems emerged at this time.
So during this period the tang-wai was able to move from
coynpetition within its own ranks to overall competition with
th~ KMT as well as to elevate its political identity from the
strictly domestic one that it had been to an international level.
While this transformation signaled an important new stage in
the development of the tang-wai, it also created a whole new
set of very difficult problems.
CBF: What are the goals of the tang-wai at present, and what
are the major obstacles to the realization of these goals?
KNH: To reflect on the entire situation of the tang-wai we
need to keep the following in mind; that of all the problems
Taiwan now faces-international problems, economic prob­
lems, domestic problems, and the problem of democracy in
Taiwan-there is only one which the tang-wai is able to
address, that is, the problem of democracy. The tang-wai
concerns itself with the issues of martial law, of political
organization, of human rights, of freedom of the press, all of
which have to do with the state of democracy in Taiwan. But
the tang-wai has not yet addressed itself to the international
challenges which face Taiwan; they do not have concrete ideas
about Taiwan's economic problems; and their ideas about the
domestic problems are not well-developed. They are therefore
not prepared to take positions on these problems.
They maintain the attitude that Taiwan's problem is the
KMT, and that it is Taiwan's only problem. They do not believe
that the KMT is only one of Taiwan's problems. If they coltld
change this outlook they would be in a much better position
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use only.
to tackle Taiwan's diverse problems. But up to the present the
tang-wai has been unable to do this. So how are they going to
get the support of the people of Taiwan? How are they going
to inspire confidence? This is a big problem, and I believe the
goal of the tang-wai at present should be to address the diversity
of problems facing Taiwan and in particular the four I
mentioned earlier. Only by doing this can they gain the
confidence and support of the Taiwanese people.
At present the tang-wai faces two major problems. The
first is that tang-wai members of the Legislative Assembly and
other tang-wai elected officials spend too much time in
meetings and taking care of their constituencies. They have
insufficient time to investigate issues in public policy in both
international and domestic affairs. They lack experience in
policymaking at the national level and lack understanding of
the entire political system.
Secondly, the younger members of the tang-wai believe
that the reason the movement is having difficulty in expanding
is because of internal ideological differences, that the
divergences in political and ideological views is preventing
tang-wai activists from working together. They claim that
without pursuing a mass movement the tang-wai will be unable
to carry out its goals. But in fact the young generation of the
tang-wai has many deficiencies of its own. They do not
adequately understand Taiwanese society, and they lack the
ability to find correct political positions. So they are not even
clear themselves about what issues they should raise in carrying
out a mass movement.
At present the tang-wai is stuck in a position of not being
able to expand its influence and contacts in society. Those
individuals who have political responsibility do not have the
time to think about the issues, and those who do not have
political responsibility have very limited contact with society.
So the problem now is first how to revive the situation
that existed three years ago in which the tang-wai had strong
ties with local political forces throughout the island, and in
which there was a linkage through organized contacts within
the tang-wai. If this situation could be revived then the tang-wai
would have increased power to mobilize support and move
ahead. Secondly, the vertical links within the movement which
existed three years ago-between the local level and the center,
between the Provincial Assembly and the Legislative Assem­
bly-must be re-established. This would allow the people to
express their demands through the vertical channels from the
lower levels to the higher ones; it would also enable the
government to be more aware of what the people want. If the
tang-wai does not re-establish both the horizontal and vertical
links which constitute its organizational structure, then it will
fall into a rut of disorganization and chaos, and the people will
not know what it is doing. In such a situation how do you
expect to mobilize people? This is a big problem.
CBF: Within the tang-wai movement the sharpest conflict
seems to be between the moderate group of elected officials
and the more radical group referred to as the 'young
generation.' You yourself have been the target of their
criticism. What is your view of this 'young generation' and
their position in the tang-wai?
KNH: The young generation says that there is too great an
ideological division between themselves and the group of
elected officials making up the moderate group, therefore they
are not going to work with us and are going to find support
from groups that are closer to their own views; i.e., that support
a mass movement and an independence movement. But there
are great dangers in carrying out a mass movement or an
independent movement in Taiwan. Once you bring up the
question of independence or Taiwanese nationalism then many
people will be unwilling to participate. When they say they
are going to carry out a mass movement, what kind of mass
movement do they really intend? They have not made this clear.
Of all the problems Taiwan now faces, there is
only one which the tang-wai is able to address,
that is, the problem of democracy. The tang-wai
concerns itself with the issues of martial law, of
political organization, ofhuman rights, offreedom
of the press, all of which have to do with the state
of democracy in Taiwan.
Another problem is that the younger generation lacks ties
with the society. So they have great difficulty in mobilizing
the local Taiwanese politicians who have contacts with all
groups in the society and have the means and interests to help
the various interest groups such as the workers and business­
men. So even this issue they have not handled well.
What is necessary is the ability to raise issues and
questions in such a way as to gain the support of the various
groups in society. If you want to mobilize the workers then
you have to understand what the workers want and need most.
You have to begin by researching the basic labor laws. What
kind of protection can you give them? The main objective for
the tang-wai should be to increase its capacity for raising issues
on the entire spectrum of problems facing Taiwan, and to raise
them in a manner sensitive to the needs of the different social
classes: the farmers, the intellectuals, the workers, the small
businessmen, the middle classes, etc. This is the only way to
mobilize the society.
If you do not have the capability to even confront these
issues, let alone proposing solutions, then the people will not
have faith in you. Furthermore, if the tang-wai can't even order
its own internal relations, how on earth can it expect to carry
out a mass movement? How can they expect to mobilize the
people? The young generation wants to go fast, but do they
have the strength?
CBF: The emergence of so many factions is a relatively recent
phenomenon. Will these factions continue to be so numerous
and divided and do you have any ideas on how these factions
could be drawn into a coalition in the future?
KNH: In principle the emergence of so many groups is good,
because in the past participation in the tang-wai was much
more limited and did not take the form of well-defined political
groups. In the past the Presbyterian church could never have
come out publicly to take a political role. Now they. and many
others, have entered politics. This is good. But if the
Presbyterians want to get involved in politics they have to think
seriously about the basis on which they compete with the KMT.
As for the political prisoners and dissidents who want to
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use only.
overthrow the KMT they have to remember that the KMT could
easily wipe them out.
With so many groups the problem of how to organize
them into a coalition becomes more acute. A way has to be
found for these different factions to share the political power
of the tang-wai, and for each of them to be given the place
they deserve.
The task of the tang-wai at present is to draw those people
with potential from all of these factions and from them to create
a new mainstream for the tang-wai. From the position of this
new mainstream we will be able to analyze how to develop
the strength we should have, and to work together. Because
the tang-wai has a major problem now which is that it is good
at playing with the outside, but that it is bad when it comes to
its own internal dynamics. These are problems which the
tang-wai faces now and will have to resolve in the future.
Right now we do not have sufficient power to organize a
political party, but we can proceed in establishing the horizontal
and vertical ties I spoke of earlier. This could resolve many
of our problems.
Especially since 1982, after the failure of the recent
election, the tang-wai has lacked leadership and direction. It
has no power to mobilize and everybody is just complaining.
Is the way things have been done these last two years right? I
don't believe so.
CBF: In the last election you failed in your bid for reelection
to the Legislative Assembly. How do you explain this?
KNH: My failure in the last election relates to the state of
disorganization within the tang-wai since 1982, and to its loss
of direction since that time. Given the weakness of the
tang-wafs political organization, when it was confronted with
the incredible diversity of views and factions which had erupted
within the movement, the situation inevitably became chaotic.
The approaching elections complicated matters even further.
The candidates who participated in the election were numerous,
diverse, and disorganized. In any particular district one could
easily find three or four tang-wai candidates competing for one
or two seats. This of course splintered the tang-wai votes and
gave the advantage to the KMT. The KMT of course took
advantage of the internal problems of the tang-wai to sow
discord and distrust between the different groups and divide
them even further. Under these conditions the tang-wai had
enormous difficulty organizing a coalition.
The situation created a lot of trouble for me. Personally,
I had enormous difficulty in both thinking of a way to organize
a cohesive coalition and at the same time to look after my own
campaign. I did not have the strength and resources to do so.
In fact I had trouble even getting sufficient support for my own
campaign. My way of doing things did not draw the support
of a lot of people. While I wanted to allow the formation of a
tang-wai coalition I also wanted to get re-elected.
So I believe this election was an important lesson for me.
I realized that at this critical stage in the course of the
democratic movement, faced with such a diverging set of
opinions, I was incapable of organizing the tang-wai into an
effective coalition. It has been an important experience for me,
and it was a big challenge.
CBF: Local politics in Taiwan could be said to be quite
democratic: local elections are quite open and competitive,
there is a high level ofpopular participation and a fairly high
level of representation of local interests. At the national level
011 the other hand. the KMT has managed to preserve a virtual
monopoly on representation and decision-making. Do you
believe that democracy at the local level will gradually filter
up to the national level, or do you think the national level can
continue indefinitely to be autonomous from the pressures from
KNH: In 1972, when the KMT opened the doors of the
Legislative Assembly, there was for the first time the chance
for local-level and national-level tang-wai politicians to be
linked. The center has had a monopoly on decision-making,
but after the national level was opened up, the local level has
gradually gained more influence at the center. The two levels
will probably become closer. I think an important task for the
tang-wai in the next 7 to 8 years is to pull the two levels into
a closer relationship. This I will do on the basis of personal
ties and contacts. Every 3 to 4 years I help a tang-wai
candidate's campaign by raising funds, gathering political
support, etc. Why? Because this helps to bring the entire
tang-wai into closer ties. Since the end of the last election there
has been a return to past practices. Now the local-level
politicians won't have anything to do with this young
generation. When the young generation attended a meeting at
the local level the local politicians didn't pay attention to them.
The KMT's claim to be the legitimate government
of China is increasingly being recognized in
Taiwan as highly unrealistic. It is time to resolve
these contradictions, and the U.S. could help the
government of Taiwan on these matters. This
would be extremely practical, and would not be
out of line at all. If Taiwan's domestic political
situation was improved this would also benefit the
CBF: You have had wide-ranging experience in Taiwan and
broad contact with the people. Could you give your view of
how the relationship between the Taiwanese and the mainland­
ers has evolved? How do you view the process ofTaiwanization
taking place in Taiwan?
KNH: While the KMT has remained firmly in control for the
last 35 years it has nevertheless needed to recruit a great number
of Taiwanese into the party, government and army. We can
see this even at the top levels which have been monopolized
by mainland Chinese. This is one aspect of the Taiwanization
of the political system. At the social level there has been an
increasing fusion between the Taiwanese and mainlanders
through common socialization, education, intermarriage, etc.
Due to these factors the relations between Taiwanese and
mainlanders is much better than before. But one should not
mistake these changes to mean that political power is not still
in the hands of the mainlanders.
I can point 0ut at least three meanings to the Taiwanization
process. First, in politics, the unified strength ofthe Taiwanese
has presented a challenge to the KMT, and has served to
pressure the KMT to carry out more reforms. Secondly,
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Taiwanese culture has developed and enriched the cultural
sphere which has been dominated by mainland Chinese culture.
Third, in the international arena, Taiwan is no longer
recognized by the majority of nations to be the legitimate
government of China. If you say you are China no one will
believe you. But if you say the wishes of the Taiwanese people
must be considered everyone will agree with that.
CBF: What is your view of the Taiwanization of the KMT?
What does this process meanfor the transformation ofTaiwan ,s
political system? If this process is successfully carried out could
it take the place ofthe democratization ofthe political system?
In other words, does Taiwanization necessarily mean democra­
KNH: No, it would not necessarily mean democratization, but
without it democratization is certainly impossible. I just spoke
about how a great many Taiwanese have entered the Party,
government, and the army, but the real power is still in the
hands of a small group of mainland Chinese. There are three
aspects to look at in analyzing the role of the nationality
question in the process of democratization.
First, how to use the energy generated by the nationality
issue to pressure the KMT into carrying out reforms in the
political sphere. Second, to put greater stress on Taiwanese
culture to balance the overemphasis on mainland Chinese
culture. Third, in the international sphere, to respect the
Taiwanese people in discussions about Taiwan. In considering
whether Taiwan can go the way of democracy, one has to keep
in mind the nationality question. To persist in making the
mainland Chinese the center of the system will not succeed.
But neither can the Taiwanese take over power. We have to
study the approach of the 1950s when mainlanders and
Taiwanese cooperated together to solve Taiwan's problems.
This is the only way Taiwan will be able to follow the path of
democracy. If this approach does not guide our efforts now
and in the future then we will run into enormous problems.
We do have a chance for democracy in Taiwan. This
comes in the first place from the fact that in Taiwan we do not
have a system of absolute power such as existed under Stalin,
Mao, and Franco. And secondly we can derive great hope from
the third generation of power-holders within the KMT.
CBF: Could you give an idea of what you think the real
popularity of the Taiwanese Independence Movement is in
Taiwan? What is the relationship between the tang-wai and the
Taiwanese Independence Movement (hereinafter TIM)?
KNH: Looking at the history of the Taiwanese people we can
see that the question of independence has received a lot of
sympathy. But the majority of the Taiwanese still do not fully
understand what the Taiwanese Independence Movement is.
While they are quite sympathetic they do not understand it very
well. So it is very difficult to analyze and to measure the extent
of their support.
There are important differences between the tang-wai and
the Taiwanese Independence Movement. Taiwan's tang-wai
is, to begin with, opposed to any kind of violence. They do
not support revolutionary methods or violent methods to
overthrow the KMT, but the TIM does. Secondly, the tang-wai
on Taiwan has not said it wants independence. They have not
said it. It is true that the tang-wai and the TIM are concerned
with many of the same issues which have to do with the state
of democracy in Taiwan: martial law, establishing a political
party, human rights, etc. But it cannot be said that because we
talk about similar issues that we are advocates of the TIM.
It is also possible that certain individuals have ties to both
the tang-wai and the TIM. Or that certain individuals in the
tang-wai have personal ties with people in the TIM. This is
difficult to ascertain.
CBF: Do you think reunification between Taiwan and the
mainland is possible in the near future?
KNH: That the relations between Taiwan and the mainland
must be very good and intimate in the future is unquestionable.
The critical question is when this can be achieved. I do not
believe it can be right now. There are at least two problems
we have to discuss here. First, for the last 35 years Taiwan
and the mainland have been developing in completely different
directions and have been set in postures of mutual confrontation
and hate. This is not a natural situation but one which was
created by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the
Kuomintang. In these 35 years the CCP and the KMT have
used their political power and their countries' national resources
to create a long-standing and systematic confrontation between
the two societies. If you have carried on this way for such a
long time you can't just suddenly tum around and say, O.K.
now let's be good friends, can you? The peoples of these
countries have been educated not to trust each other; now you
suddenly tell them the KMT is good, the CCP is good. That
is impossible.
In considering whether Taiwan can go the way of
democracy, one has to keep in mind the nationality
question. To persist in making the mainland
Chinese the center of the system will not succeed.
But neither can the Taiwanese take over power.
We have to study the approach of the 1950s when
mainlanders and Taiwanese cooperated together
to solve Taiwan's problems. This is the only way
Taiwan will be able to follow the path of
The first task now is to get rid of this emotional burden.
After such a long period this attitude of confrontation has
become some sort of a social institution which cannot be
toppled in a few days. This problem has to be resolved before
we can seriously start trying to improve relations. The second
problem is that we are faced with two completely different
political, economic, and social systems. These differences have
to be resolved in some way. Given these problems, how could
the two societies embrace each other today?
CBF: If you do not believe reunification is possible in the near
future, what do you think the relationship between Taiwan and
the mainland should be? What is your view of the Hong Kong
agreement? Do you think the 'Hong Kong model' could be
used for Taiwan?
KNH: Let's look a moment at what the Hong Kong model is.
In fact this model is very similar to the traditional model which
existed in the past between China and its vassal countries. In
this arrangement these countries had completely different
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political, economic and social systems, but they recognized
China as 'big brother.' Is that in fact what China now wants
with the Hong Kong model? If it is then we can find a way to
accommodate them.
There are a number of problems that have to be looked
at. First, are the terms which the mainland offered Hong Kong
better than what Taiwan already has? I think not. Take the
economic freedoms the mainland has granted Hong Kong for
instance. These already exist in Taiwan. Hong Kong is also
being granted elections, but Taiwan has been running elections
for several decades. These types of concessions are therefore
not of interest to Taiwan. We already have all these things.
According to the reaction from Taiwan in the press, from the
people, etc., the general view is that such concessions would
not benefit Taiwan. Therefore we would have to bargain.
Secondly, for the last 100 years the position of the major
powers has been critical to the fate o( Taiwan and continues
to be so today. At different stages they have taken various
positions regarding Taiwan's status. At one point when it suited
their interests the CCP even said Taiwan should be independent.
In the case of Hong Kong all that was needed was for England
and the PRC to agree, but this could not be the case for Taiwan.
Because in addition to Taiwan and the mainland, the CCP and
the KMT, the interests of the major powers (the U.S. and
Japan) have to be taken into consideration as well.
A final problem with the Hong Kong model is that it does
not consider the views of the Hong Kong people. Taiwan could
not be treated in the same way. For 100 years the people of
Hong Kong have never made political demands. But since
1911, the people of Taiwan have taken both the Japanese and
the KMT as opponents and have raised numerous political
demands. These demands would have to be considered in any
resolution of Taiwan's fate.
CBF: When you say Taiwan should recognize the mainland
as "big brother," does this imply Taipei should recognize
Peking's sovereignty?
KNH: Not necessarily. You should understand it rather as
China being recognized as playing the role of "big brother" in
CBF: A number of other models concerning Taiwan's future
are being discussed. One of these is the Olympic Model,
another is the Asia Development Bank model. What position
does the government on Taiwan take regarding these other
models and what is your view?
KNH: In 1981 the KMT came up with the Olympic Model
and very enthusiastically coined the new slogan "China­
Taipei." Everything was fine until the Hong Kong agreement
came out with the term "China-Hong Kong." Under the terms
of the agreement, if Hong Kong participates in any international
event or organization it must use this title. The parallel between
the two terms terrified the KMT and they retreated from the
Olympic model.
The Asia Development Bank model is interesting. It takes
Taiwanese society as a unit based on its population and
economic strength and takes into consideration the role it should
have in Asia. It seeks to give Taiwan the position it deserves
in the international arena.
CBF: Taiwan in effect is already a functioning unit, isn't it?
So what kind ()lullit do you have in mind? When you speak of
the position it deserves should this include national
KNH: It is true that Taiwan is a functioning unit but its position
is not sufficiently clear. Neither the U.S. nor Japan is willing
to openly address this problem. Now if it suits their interests
for Taiwan and the mainland to improve their relations then it
can be done. But for a long time the U.S. and Japan used
Taiwan to achieve their own goals in Asia. It is irresponsible
for them simply to pressure Taiwan into negotiations without
themselves playing a positive role.
CBF: What is your opinion about cu"ent U.S. policy towards
China and Taiwan? Do you think the U.S. is pursuing an
approach which represents American interests to the greatest
possible extent?
KNH: In principle the normalization of Sino-American
relations benefited the U.S. This readjustment of U.S.-China
relations-I say readjustment, not establishment, of ties since
it involved the shift of recognition from the KMT to the
CCP-was a very long time in the making. The U.S. had to
wait a long time and wait for the proper occasion and
opportunity to make this shift. I can identify four types of
interests which are satisfied by this move.
First, the U.S. was able to push the U.S.-Soviet strategic
line in Asia back to the Sino-Soviet border from its previous
position along the Pacific belt including Taiwan. This has been
of enormous advantage to the U.S. Second, the U.S. no longer
has to fight the PRC for the sake of little countries like Taiwan.
Now with the readjustment of its ties to the PRC this will no
longer be necessary. Third, readjustment of U. S. -PRC relations
created a considerable shift in the balance of U.S.-Soviet
relations in favor of the U.S. Fourth, because the PRC can act
as a leverage with regard to the USSR in Asia, this has served
to relieve the strategic pressure on American allies in Europe
and thereby has affected the world balance of power. These
represent some of the benefits the U.S. has derived.
CBF: What kind ofsupport do you reasonably expect the U.S.
can provide Taiwan at present? If you were in a position to
advise the American government, what concrete suggestions
would you give?
KNH: Now with regard to U.S. policy towards Taiwan, when
the U.S. recognized the Communists as the legitimate rulers
of China, it still had the responsibility to allow Taiwan to
survive and develop. Do you want to destroy that opportunity
for Taiwan? You have done away with the right of the KMT
to legitimately represent China. Does this mean you must also
do away with the ability of Taiwan to survive and grow as a
society? We are extremely thankful for the Taiwan Relations
Act. It shows that while the legitimacy of the KMT to represent
China has been removed there is still concern for the ability
of Taiwanese society to flourish. On this point there is a crisis
in that the U.S. is gradually renouncing this sense of
responsibility. It suddenly came out with the restrictions on
quantity and quality of weapons supply to Taiwan. In the
Taiwan Relations Act it was very clear that the U.S. would
continue to supply Taiwan with defensive weapons. Why do
they need to go and place restrictions on this now?
The U.S. could play much more of a role in helping
Taiwan resolve its domestic political problems. The KMT says
it wants to establish a democratic system, but it continues to
close down newspapers, prohibit the establishment of new
political parties and in other ways violate the civil and political
rights of the people on Taiwan. The KMT's claim to be the
legitimate government of China is increasingly being recog­
nized in Taiwan as highly unrealistic. It is time to resolve these
contradictions, and the U.S. could help the government of
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Taiwan on these matters. This would be extremely practical,
and would not be out of line at all. If Taiwan's domestic
political situation was improved this would also benefit the
U.S. If the situation does not improve then Taiwan could
become a burden for the U .S. These are some of the suggestions
I would give the U.S. government.
Japan's democratization was also Japan's busi­
ness, so what was the U.S. doing in drafting a
constitution for them? Does the conduct ofMarcos
in the Philippines, the fact that Aquino was killed,
have nothing to do with you? Don't you care about
it? Obviously such problems cannot simply be
taken as having nothing to do with the U.S. These
matters cannot be separatedfrom U.S. interests in
CBF: You seem to regard it as legitimate for the U.S. to
intervene in Taiwan's internal affairs to encourage the process
of democratization. Shouldn't this process be the outcome of
the efforts of the people of Taiwan and not be imposed from
the outside?
KNH: Japan's democratization was also Japan's business, so
what was the U.S. doing in drafting a constitution for them?
Does the conduct of Marcos in the Philippines, the fact that
Aquino was killed, have nothing to do with you? Don't you
care about it? Obviously such problems cannot simply be taken
as having nothing to do with the U.S. These matters cannot
be separated from U.S. interests in Asia.
Any position the U.S. takes has an impact on Taiwan.
When the U.S. and China established diplomatic relations
wasn't Taiwan dragged into it? Didn't it have a big impact on
Taiwan's domestic affairs? So why shouldn't the U.S. take a
constructive position in favor of democracy? The U.S. has
interests and has a tremendous impact on Taiwan's fate, so
shouldn't it take a constructive and responsible position? It's
a lot of nonsense to say that Taiwan's democratization is its
own business. It relates to the U.S. and to the political order
in Asia.
CBF: What is your view of the current developments on the
mainland? Do you have confidence that the current reform
efforts will succeed?
KNH: Well, I am interested in these developments, and I hope
they will succeed, because if they do this will allow the people
on the mainland to live even better. and this will bring more
stability to Asia. I worry about things going wrong. If the
reforms don't work out, then relations with the U.S. and Japan
will once again break down and this will have a major impact
on the region.
CBF: KMT rule on Taiwan rests in large part on its claim to
be the represelltative of China. While they hm'e gradllally
become less stalillch about this claim m'er time hOl\'far do rOll
think they ('(III del'iate from it without upsettillg the basis (d'
their legitimacy?
KNH: Today the KMT continues to grab onto this claim. Their
justification to rule still rests significantly on this claim of being
the legitimate representative of China. This claim is the legal
foundation of their rule. On the basis of this claim they refuse
to hold elections for national representatives. The real problem
is that they are unwilling to give up their political power. Yet
we do not want to kick them out of office. We are willing to
let them continue in their place. But they must progress in the
goals that they themselves have proclaimed. They say they are
going to democratize. Good, we are waiting. I am not at all
like the Taiwanese Independence Movement that wants to
overthrow the government. But the KMT had better democrat­
Their claim to represent all of China is an obstacle to the
progress of real democratization. As long as they claim to
represent China then Taiwan will have no power. Now if they
really want to continue making this claim then they can go
ahead and do it, but they must democratize. Give the Taiwanese
people a chance to participate. As for the mainland, it cannot
simultaneously support the Hong Kong model and oppose the
democratization of Taiwan's political system.
De.or AmericdnS,
O<.Cltdl, N.c.C1ros~~
When I Li we didn'T hove. dn'f 5<:.1'\00\S
or dOCTors or land To grow -f'ood. ThdT'S wh'l
"''I fdmi 1'1 fO\lghT aGainst ~~ dict~tor SOf\'\OZ.d.
But rv;:,w 'f0~'" governmenT ,s +1"'11r'\3 TO
destroya\l we Qre buildirs. Eller'l0ne Sd"iS +he
Amet-ic.dl"t peOPle ore <30Od. Th~'t S""'Y if '(ou.
knew whd't was hctppc:ning 'Iou wou\d s+op
-the wdt-.
P'eos~ S't6p \~iS Wd\" and G',,,~ M~ dl'\d I"'\'f C~Ntt)'
C.hdnce.. +0
G~o,",. Y~t- -fr"iend, Dcinie\ Give Nicaragua a Chance.
D YES! I'd like 10 help Please rush me delalls 011 whal I cae do [J Enclosed IS my lax-deductible contnbutlOn 01 $ _ to help With your work NAME _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ AOORESS _ _
CllY ...
_ __
_ STATE _ _ _ ZIP _ _ _ _ _ _. Mall to Institute lor Food and Development Policy 1885 Mlss.or Street Sar FrarCISCO CA 94103 3584 c1985 Institute lor Food and Oevelopmerl Polq Sar Fraf"l(lsco CA
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
Owen. Berkeley: University of California Press,
1984. 311 pp.
Review Essay
Villains, Victims,
and Villeins
COMMODITIES, by Third World Studies
Program. Quezon City: Third World Studies
Center, College of Arts and Sciences, University
of the Philippines, 1983. 310 pp.
Owen, ed. Ann Arbor: Center for South and
Southeast Asian Studies (Michigan Papers on
South and Southeast Asia, no. 22), the University
of Michigan, 1983). 208 pp.
by Bruce Cruikshank
These three books, by ten authors and with eleven essays
and one book-length manuscript, give us in Philippine studies
some fine, recent research on the course of the Philippine
political economy from the late eighteenth century almost to
the present. Of the three titles, the book on Bicol or Kabikolan
by Norman G. Owen is not only the longest but undoubtedly
the most important in research depth, scope, and length of time
covered. The volume edited by the Third World Studies
Program is less extensive in scope and time, but its essays are
generally well-researched and tightly argued. The book edited
by Owen has some good essays, but overall is less strong than
the Political Economy of Philippine Commodities.
In his book Norman Owen is trying to combine a full
study of the region of Kabikolan in the nineteenth century with
a case study of the nature and effects of its partial incorporation
into the capitalist world system from about 1818 to about 1918.
It is a particularly valuable case study, he argues, because the
partial incorporation through the major export industry of abaca
("Manila hemp") seems to contradict usual perceptions of the
cost of such contact with world capitalism by regions in
Wallerstein's "periphery." In Kabikolan generally and the
export sector particularly there was none of the "usual" forced
labor or slavery; there were no plantations of note; the
indigenous elite often wet'e the major innovators in the local
and export economy; a1lkIl the results for Kabikolan and all of
its people was improved material welfare. However, thanks to
Owen's talent we can see that ultimately "this temporary
prosperity failed to lead WI' real progress, as if it contained
within itself its own limits- and thus its own demise" (xv). He
contines (xvi):
This boot. is. a study of how the rise and eventual decline of
abaca in Kabikolan affected. the' development of that region. The
tint half of the- book, ex.plores· the rise of the export industry,
sbawing how a. strong. marKet: sector evolved from a traditional
subsistence economy without either governmental coercion or
substantial investment of foreign capital in plantations. In the
second half of the book the rest of the regional economy is explored
in an effort to analyze the failure of Kabikolan to capitalize on the
rise of abaca or to transcend its decline. Through examination of
the persistence of a strong subsistence sector, the vicissitudes of
other commercial enterprises, and the uneven growth of the tertiary
sector, we may begin to understand one often-ignored aspect of
Third World history-the paradox of truncated development.
His exploration of this "paradox" (especially in pp.
222-253) moves along a spectrum of analyses from internal
causes to external factors, roughly from the "lazy native" and
development theorists to imperialism and dependency theory.
He breaks no new ground with any of these explanations, but
throughout he demonstrates a mastery of major works in the
literature. Indeed, throughout the book he shows a good
knowledge of and gives comparative examples from: archival
sources in the Philippines, Spain, the USA, and Great Britain;
Spanish published sources; Southeast Asian history; develop­
ment theorists; Marxist scholarship; dependency theory;
demography; statistics; world capitalist history, including
specific crops and industries; patron-client theory; Spanish and
American imperialism; and studies of women and social
This listing, a veritable Boy Scout's tally of a good social
historian's virtues, should not mislead the reader. The book,
based on a significantly revised University of Michigan Ph.D.
dissertation (1976), is fundamentally a regional history. His
research findings are always paramount. Theory is important
in the book but always subjected to strong reasoning, good
questions, comparative analysis, and of course the results of
his extensive research. That is, it is a case study of a region's
histm-y, with theory capably incorporated but subordinated to
his responsibility as a historian.
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The reader gains a sense of this emphasis in one of his
concluding paragraphs (p. 252):
Whether colonialism and capitalism together were responsi­
ble, or whether they also combined with some indigenous
disinclination to modernize, the opportunity for Kabikolan to tum
temporary prosperity into more lasting progress had passed before
the end of the colonial period. The market for abaca and coconuts
had faUen, and though it would recover somewhat in the postwar
period, it would never again offer Kabikolan the kind of profits
the region had once enjoyed. The most fertile lands had been
opened and farmed; the most accessible timber and gold had been
extracted; the frontier was disappearing; population pressure had
become a permanent factor in the developmental equation. If the
Bikolanos were ever to achieve real progresss, it would have to
be under less favorable circumstances. The century of abundant
resources and expanding markets was over.
This "paradox of truncated development" was a costly one for
coming generations. Owen quotes (p. 221) from a 1979
Philippine Government report-I.8 million people on 706,000
hectares of land (only half of which arable); 80 percent of these
people at or below the national poverty level in 1971 (65 percent
so categorized in 1975) and suffering serious health problems,
poor housing, inconstant employment, and a marginal share
of the region's total income (10 percent of all households
controlled at least 43 percent of that income).
If Owen is chary of sweeping generalizations and
indictments, the reader initially expects otherwise from the
Political Economy of Philippine Commodities. After all, this
book of four essays begins with a Foreword by the Director
of the Third World Studies Program characterized by
misleadingly strong rhetoric (v):
The colonial powers that plundered the Third World also
created monocultural economies in the territories they brought
under their control. They forcibly drafted entire sections of existing
societies or brought in coolies from abroad to work in the
back-breaking routine of mono-crop plantations, while the rest of
the indigenous population were [sic] marginalized and left to
fashion their own existence in mutually isolated subsistence
communities . . .
But whether we are dealing with bananas, or sugar, or tobacco
or coconut, the images conjured by the dependence on primary
commodity exports remain the same: a history of colonial
subjugation, a dependent economy dutifully fulfilling an obligation
in the global capitalist division of labor ... , an authoritarian
State presiding over the unholy alliance of the military, the
technocracy, imperialist capital and subservient comprador and
rentier local capital, and a subjugated culture sufficiently
transformed, distorted, homogenized and attuned to the logic of
transnational market.
The reader should not be misled by these phrasings. Three
of the four essays that follow are as good as any I have read,
with solid documentation, relatively jargon-free style, and a
concern for description over theory or bombastic posturings.
The first essay, by Randolf S. David, Temerio C. Rivera,
Patricio N. Albinales, and Oliver G. Teves, "Transnational
Corporations and the Philippine Banana Export Industry" (pp.
1-133), is a straightforward and cogent study of banana exports
after 1958. The essay documents the acquisition of private and
public lands through various means from sweet talk to coercion
(often with government support). It shows the infusion of
capital and technology by United Brands, Standard Fruit, and
Japanese and Filipino-owned companies. The result is
domination economically, politically, and contractually by
transnational corporations. The authors indicate some policy
options and recommendations (pp. 98-106), but they are not
optimistic concerning possible changes and reacquisition of
freedom and dignity by the indigent Filipino farmers at the
The second essay, by Alfred W. McCoy, " 'In Extreme
Unction': the Philippine SugarIndustry" (pp. 135-179), shows
briefly the crisis suffered by that industry in the 1970s when
it lost the protected USA market and was forced to compete
on the world market while hobbled by higher and
disadvantageous costs of production. McCoy shows the effects
of government bungling of the newly nationalized sugar export
trade, low world market sugar prices in the mid-1970s, and
Martial Law politics. As a consequence, planters increasingly
sought mechanization as a means to cut costs, increase
production, and compete more effectively on the world market.
He includes (pp. 139-144) a brief summary of the Philippine
sugar industry from the 1850s to the 1970s and concludes (pp.
162-172) with a case study of labor dislocation and the resulting
murder of a plantation manager.
The third essay is the strongest and most successfully
detailed of the four essays in this book. Rigoberto Tiglao shows
in his 'The Political Economy of the Philippine Coconut
Industry" (pp. 181-271), "the forms of class and national
exploitation engendered by that industry" (p. 183). Although
Tiglao is much more sophisticated in his analysis, the gist is
a basic division in the industry between small farms operated
by peasant farmers and large farms or plantations operated
through wage labor. Ninety percent of all farms are small, but
large farms and plantations control 42 percent of the hectarage
of all copra farms. Peasant farmers are "semi-proletarianized"
through subjection to the world capitalist system, its prices,
marketing contracts, and need for cash to purchase marketed
items. But income from their farms permits only subsistence
and perpetuation of the system. He mentions in passing that 8
hectares is the minimum needed to break even (p. 199), but
his Table One (p. 256) shows that almost 73 percent of all
farms are less than 5 hectares. Wage labor is pervasive but
especially common on large farms and plantations. Wages for
such toil are low and based usually on piece-work rates. Profits
then are low to zero for small farms, but low wages and
economies of scale allow profits to increase directly with size
of the farm. These profits go for purchase of more land, since
productivity per tree is not expansible or into other spheres,
benefitting government corporations and bureaucrats as well
as transnational corporations. He concludes a well-documented
and detailed argument with a flourish (p. 238).
While generating substantial income for the industrial
consumers in the capitalist world centers, as well as for the landed
elite and comprador-industrial capitalist classes in the country. the
coconut industry, together with similar industries producing
primary commodities for export, constitute the basic cause of
underdevelopment of the Philippine economy.
The last essay in this fine book of essays is by a Mexican
anthropologist, Patricia Torres Mejia. Entitled "Philippine
Virginia Tobacco: 30 Years of Increasing Dependency." her
essay sketches out the history of tobacco from about 1952 to
the 1970s. Torres Mejia tells of a US entrepreneur, government
support, and a tobacco boom in the 1950s. This was followed
by grower indebtedness, government bungling, and a
government monopoly in 1960, with 1961 reforms blocked by
local and USA interests. Then came more government
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use only.
bungling. near bankruptcy of the government corporation, and
a perpetuation of grower indebtedness. In the 1970s involved
local politics and violence became prominent, along with a
restructured government monopoly. However. even with the
aid of cotton as an alternative crop. local and national
corruption and mismanagement continues today, as does the
indebtedness of the farmers. In terms of documentation and
organization. this essay is the weakest of the four. but its story
is believable and fits in well with the other essays in the Political
Economy of Philippine Commodities.
The last book of essays, The Philippine Economy and the
United States: Studies in Past and Present Interactions. is less
cohesive. Its seven essays by six authors reflect not only
different themes and degrees of documentation, but also,
surprisingly. "contradictions, of debate. even of fundamentally
irreconcilable views" (xi) among themselves.
Not all the essays are controversial. The first three
contributions are straightforward essays. though on strikingly
different topics. Frank H. Golay in his" 'Manila Americans'
and Philippine Policy: The Voice of American Business" (pp.
1-35) shows in convincing fashion that from around 1900 to
1946 the American business community in the Philippines was
remarkably ineffective in attempts to shape US imperial policy
made in Washington. D.C. Grant K. Goodman in his
"America's 'Permissive' Colonialism: Japanese Business in the
Philippines. 1899-1941" (pp. 37-62), while speaking in
passing of the USA as "a reluctant colonial mentor" and the
American colonial elite being "psychologically burdened with
gUilt about colonial control of the Philippines." only
demonstrates that the Japanese before World War II had made
significant economic and political contacts in the islands.
Harold C. Livesay offers us an interesting essay (pp. 63-76)
on "The Philippines As an Example of the Ford Motor
Company's Multinational Strategy." Unfortunately Livesay
resolutely demarcated his subject in such a way that many of
the interesting policy, economic, and political questions
involved are ignored or shrugged off with deceptive ease.
Somewhat the same problem, but to the point of outright
error. is found in Victor M. Ordonez's essay "An Analysis of
Reactions of Investors to the Recent Investment Climate in the
Philippines." This fifth essay (pp. 109-130) is a weakly­
documented public relations talk with an attempt (pp. 119-127)
to delimit four stages of socioeconomic development in.
apparently, the twentieth century; this section has so many
errors one wonders why it was included in the book.
The three remaining essays are provocative. well­
documented and well-developed arguments of strikingly
different positions. Robert T. Snow writes an essay,
"Export-Oriented Industrialization, the International Division
of Labor. and the Rise of the Subcontract Bourgeoisie in the
Philippines" (pp. 77-108), that could very well have graced
the pages of Political Economy ofPhilippine Commodities. He
argues convincingly that after the import-substitution indus­
trialization programs of the Philippine government in the 1950s
and 1960s came (in the late 1960s) a shift to a policy of
export-oriented industrialization (EOI). He then documents for
this latter program patterns of capital investment, markets and
trade, and class (especially the "bourgeoisie" and "subcontract
bourgeoisie"), concluding with implications for the future of
the Philippine economy. This is a strong essay whose
underlying argument is (p. 78):
EOI has continued the external dependence of the Philippine
economy upon the American market. It has also fostered the growth
of a new domestic class of Filipino subcontractors whose interests
are as closely tied to the United States as were those of the
export-crop plantation owners of the past. In short, EOI may have
changed the form of the bonds of dependence, but it has not broken
Snow is convincing-and then questions arise when one
encounters the fine essay (his second in the book) by Frank H.
Golay. "Taming the American Multinationals" (pp. 131-176).
Golay agrees on the shift from import-substitution to
export-oriented industrialization, but he argues that since then
(and in some cases before) the American percentage in and
presumed control over the Philippine economy has declined
and is now marginal. Apparently there was marked US
disinvestment in the late 1960s and early 1970s with an overall
decline in the rate of growth of direct investment in the
Philippine economy from 1950 to 1977. By 1977, he calculates
(p. 157). US direct investment "was equal to 2.6 percent of
the capital stock of the Philippines," or only "equivalent to 8.1
percent of the assets of the one thousand largest Philippine
corporations." One often hears that US firms dominate the
credit structure and available capital resources of Third World
countries. but Golay argues that from 1960 to 1974 only 7.2
percent of all credits extended went to United Citizens and
their enterprises (p.159), and might have been less. By the end
of 1977 it was down to 4.3 percent. Land ownership by US
citizens has never been significant in the Philippines. but one
hears worrisome comments about leased land controlled by
American firms. Golay tries to downplay the situation (p. 161).
The II. 724 hectares of land leased to American direct-investment
enterprises was equal to slightly more than one-third of one percent
of the area harvested to Philippine commercial crops in 1976. Land
owned or leased by Americans and their enterprises in the 1970s
totaled some 29.000 hectares. or one-third of one percent of all
Philippine agricultural lands in private hands.
I imagine he would agree that in the areas of the lease,
meddling by a US firm could dominate the local economic and
political scene; but certainly the fear of US domination of the
whole Philippine economy seems to be dispelled by these
figures. Equally impressive are his statistics for remittance of
direct-investment income from the Philippines: up from 45
million in 1960-62 to 74 million in 1974--76 but dropping from
8.3 percent of export earnings in 1960-62 to 3.0 percent in
1974--76. Business is good in the Philippines, but foreign
business interests do not dominate the Philippine economy
seems to be his thesis.
Substantial numbers of educated and sophisticated Filipinos
of various persuasions choose to believe that their economy is
dominated by American-owned enterprises and that they live in
thralldom to American direct-investment enterprises-the so­
called multinational corporations. To do so. these Filipinos reject
a broad spectrum of objective evidence to the contrary, major
elements of which are summarized above (p. 163).
The picture does seem more complex than one might have
originally thought. Of course not just "these Filipinos" talk
about Philippine economic dependence on the United States,
and one of the reasons is that in a world capitalist economy
the Philippines would seem to need overseas markets more
than they (the US and Japan especially) need the Philippines.
Golay surprised me with the figures demonstrating the
smallness of US percentages of control in the Philippine
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial
use only.
economy, but Norman G. Owen in the concluding essay,
"Philippine-American Economic Interactions: A Matter of
Magnitude" (pp. 177-208), takes yet another approach. He
argues from the seemingly commonplace observations that the
United States has a trade forty times greater than the Philippines
and has a gross domestic product eighty times greater. This
sort of disparity, he demonstrates, stands behind the history of
U.S.-Philippine imperialism and post-independence relations.
Whether you view these relations as beneficient in intent or
consequence, still this "fundamental disproportion of scale is
a major reason that the Philippines has always, from the
beginning, been peripheral to the United States" (p. 184).
Conversely, and again from the 19OOs, the United States has
always "mattered too much" to Filipino leaders (p. 185). The
question of who needs whom more-and of course the
dependence revealed in the answer is cultural and political as
well as economic-he also extends in passing to multinational
corporations. Owen concludes (pp. 1'96--198):
The other great constant of Philippine economic history over
the past century is the persistent poverty of the great majority of
Filipinos . . . . It would be hard to prove that the material welfare
of the average Filipino is significantly higher today than it was in
the nineteenth century .... Any study of the Philippine economy
which fails to take this into account is disingenuous at best.
It is possible, of course, that this poverty is simply
coincidental, explicable in terms of inadequate resources,
short-sighted leadership, or just plain bad luck. Yet seen over the
span of a century in which the poverty and the Philippine-American
relationship are constants, it is difficult not to assume that they
are somehow connected. Whatever its motives, whatever the
specific policies it included, the "special relationship" has not
proved healthy for the Filipinos . . . .
Ultimately, of course, the relationship has always been
asymmetrical, despite occasional efforts to create a nominal
reciprocity. Perhaps this must always be the case; when two
"partners" are so unequal, is real partnership possible? . . .
Focusing on the disproportion of magnitude does not prove that
the relationship was inherently unhealthy, but it creates a strong,
and sad, presumption.
These three books offer us a spectrum of approaches to
the Philippine past. Such a spectrum might have at one end
the exploiters and at the other the exploited, or villains and
victims. Perhaps among the victims one might place the bulk
of the Philippine population, laborers and peasants. And among
the peasants and others would be found many bound by forms
of patronage or tenancy-and which for reasons (only) of
alliteration and to suggest socio-economic dependency I have
included in the title of this essay as villeins.
With exceptions, such as the essays by Goodman,
Livesay, Ordonez, and Golay, the dominant motif that occurs
to me in this disparate collection of scholarship is such a
spectrum. For instance, while crude references to villains are
omitted, there are clear attitudes concerning the capitalist world
system in general and the United States in particular. More
significantly, there are some exciting suggestions for future
analysis. Who is/was the Filipino socio-economic elite, how
was it recruited, what will its role be in the future of Philippine
politics, and where are there divisions among this elite which
might be significant in that future?
Snow, for instance, talks about the "bourgeoisie" and the
"subcontract bourgeoisie" who Rave benefited from the
program of export-oriented industrialism, who are in direct
competition with the elite that prospered under import-substitu­
tion, and who "do not appear to be part of the politically
influential circle around President Marcos" (p. 97). Com­
plementary patterns of ties between Filipino businessmen,
politicians, and foreign economic interests are hinted at in the
essays in Political Economy ofPhilippine Commodities and in
the essays by Golay, Goodman, and Ordonez, though some of
these would not place the domestic elite in the part of the
spectrum I have labeled villains.
The category of socio-economic and political 'internal
dependency called for convenience villeinage here but more
correctly designated as patronage systems is a dimension
merely touched in passing in Owen's book and almost
completely ignored in the two books of essays. Regardless of
the results of the current debate concerning its importance or
function in general and in the Philippines specifically, it is
surprising to me that this major dimension of Philippine politics
and society in general is almost totally ignored in these works.
Many but not all of the victims function at the lower end
of such patronage systems. Patronage analysis suggests that
the weaker party is frequently unfree but still a fully functioning
member of a hierarchical society, a society increasingly subject
to major socio-economic change. Many writers have traced
how these changes increasingly subject the weaker parties to
pressures that erode the margins of maneuverability and move
villeins closer to being classical victims of industrialization,
farm mechanization, commercial crop growing, and so forth.
The number and categories of victims seem to be growing
in the Philippines. The people at the socio-economic bottom,
and in some cases those in the middle sectors, appear to be
increasingly victimized by the division of profits and power in
the Philippines today. Only some of the writers explicitly
discuss the impact on the "victims" and fewer still give any
sort of personal dimension to this group. Coping mechanisms
are mentioned in the essay by David, et al. on bananas (pp.
71-76); the implications of the coconut smallholder's lot are
easily drawn in the essay by Tiglao, though it is left to the
reader to do so; and politics and local violence in I1ocos are
mentioned by Torres Mejia (pp. 288-290). Snow at least
mentions "the growth of a new, largely female proletariat" with
EOI policies (p. 79), but for most of the writers in The
Philippine Economy and the United States volume victims and
those at the bottom fall outside the purview of their essays.
Al McCoy in his essay on the Philippine sugar industry
and Norman Owen in his book on Kabikolan expressly try to
incorporate this dimension. McCoy uses an ultimately
ambiguous case study following his study of mechanization on
a plantation manager (pp. 162-172). He ends his essay with
an interview fragment with the murderer:
I do not regret that I killed Mr. Pereche. Our life was miserable
then, and two of my younger siblings had been forced to quit
school because we couldn't borrow money. Today I have three
siblings in school because father can borrow from the new
administrator. And the wookers' wages have gone up as well. From
what I ,hear, things are better on the hacienda now . . .. More
;people Wsited me in prison than visited Pereche in the funeral
parlor. And a lot of people from the hacienda send me money. If
Pereche were still there, ,pe~ple 'Would be miserable. So until now
I have no regrets. ,all.
McCoy has succeeded in adding the dimension of victim or
people at the bottom, but it 'is a dimension as shown through
this interviewfr.agment Which is rather puzzling if not
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial
use only.
depressing. Mechanization continued, labor dislocation
continued, the terms of trade and financing into the world
capitalist economy continued, and here is a simple laborer who
by drastic action has temporarily alleviated the burden on his
family and neighbors. Through simple but vicious reactions an
individual has managed to release some of the pressures; and
the individualism that led him to take such steps also leads him
to bask contentedly in jail with the knowledge of what little
he has in fact achieved.
Owen in his book on Kabikolan is also concerned with
the people at the bottom, who would not be called victims
probably until after the collapse of the abaca trade around 1918,
if then. Throughout the book he tries to achieve a picture of
the Bicolanos in general and the non-elite specifically, but the
results are fragmentary. His strategy is to present sketchy
collective portraits of people devoted to multiple economies
and handicrafts along with abaca cultivation for the export
trade, especially in Chapter Four and here and there in Chapters
Five through Seven. He succeeds remarkably well, given the
refractory sources we struggle with. He does concede that a
fully dimensional history of Bicol, beyond "its bare
socioeconomic bones" (xvii), is yet to be written, but his book
is nontheless a fine piece of work.
Indeed, all three books contain a wealth of well-researched
material on Philippine local, regional, national, and
international economies. I recommend all three and hope that
the work therein will stimulate further studies that will attend
as well to some of the dimensions and problems raised in this
review essay.
Critical Perspectives on the Constitution
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-Whose Constitution Is This?
-Justice for Women and
Native Peoples
-Are the Courts Progressive?
-Views from Quebec;
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-Referendum: Let the People Amend
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Henry Milner
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Harry Glasbeek
Louise Mandell
Michael Mandel
Norman Penner
Gayle Raphanel
Stuart Rush
Discussion Section:
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Gail Starr
Garth Stevenson
Janice Tait
Rea Whitaker
Norman Zlotkin
Julian Sher on the NEP
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© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
POLITICS, by A. S. Narang. New Delhi: Gatan­
jali Publishing House, 1983, 261 pp. Distributed
by South Asia Books, P.O. Box 502, Columbia,
Missouri 65205.
by Eddie J. Girdner
Contemporary North Indian society presents a complex
mosaic in which religion, language, caste and class interact.
In this context, religious revivalistic movements beginning in
the nineteenth century have produced a volatile political culture
in which emotions and passions, associated with the fear of
religious communities of being absorbed into the larger
community, have resulted in periodic outbreaks of violence.
In this book, A. S. Narang sets out to account for the rise
of Sikh nationalist consciousness from its origins in the
nineteenth century to the present concept of a Sikh nation.
Professor Narang attempts to analyze recent political develop­
ments and the growing demands for more political autonomy
in the Sikh community by adopting the revisionist theoretical
framework recently developed by Paul Wallace.' Following
Cynthia Enloe,2 this perspective views the traditional simplistic
view of modernization and politicization in terms of dichotom­
ous sets of pattern variables as inadequate. It is argued that
so-called "traditional" and "parochial" values may contribute
to "nation building." Religious and communal cultural loyalties
may facilitate rather than inhibit the process of political
mobilization. Narang points out that the Western social
mobilization model of political development cannot account
for continued allegiances to religion, caste and community in
North India. Further, class interests and class consciousness
only rarely emerge to weaken such communal allegiances. The
most crucial factor in Punjab politics, in recent years, according
to Narang, is that economic and class interests have largely
coincided with communal interests. Consequently crosscutting
cleavages which might have served to diminish communal
politics have not evolved.
The roots of the communal cleavages in Punjab are traced
to the religious revivalism of the nineteenth century whereby
language became associated with "group dominance, religious
reform and political aspirations." Language played a peculiar
role in Punjab, it is argued, in that while it is ordinarily a uniting
force, in Punjab it became a divisive force because of its
association with religion. Regardless of their spoken language,
people opted for the language associated with their religion.
Sikhs came to claim Punjabi and the Gurmukhi script as their
language while Hindus claimed Hindi and the Devanagiri
script, as these were the languages of their scriptures.
But underlying the language issue was economic struggle
which undermined complete communal solidarity. In the Sikh
community, caste divides members into roughly three groups,
agriculturalists (Jats) , shopkeepers and businessmen (Khatris
and Aroras) and laborers (Scheduled castes). In the villages,
the interests of the landowing Jats are sharply opposed to those
of the landless laborer Harijans. Professor Narang notes that
while the Green Revolution has resulted in swiftly changing
agrarian relations in recent years, whereby tenants and laborers
suffered the loss of traditional economic benefits when they
were forced to work for cash payments, there has been little
actual class struggle in Punjab.
Historically, the establishment of the Khalsa or religious
community of Sikhs marked the establishment of a "militant
church" which was a response to Islam. Narang argues that
"modernization and Westernization" under the British led to
competition among communities. "The differential response to
social mobilization created mutual antagonisms among different
communities." (p. 38)
Sikh Nationalism began with the "Kuka Movement"
around 1850 which included a boycott of British goods, or
Swadeshi. Its emergence proceeded through the establishment
of the Singh Sabha movement in 1873 and the Chief Khalsa
Diwan, which served as the political wing of the Singh Sabha
associations, in 1887. After 1914, the Sikhs, desiring a more
militant organization, founded the Central Sikh League. The
emergence of the Shiromani Akali Dal in 1920, as the militant
wing of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee
I. Paul Wallace, "Religious And Secular Politics In Punjab: The Sikh
Dilemma In Competing Political Systems," in Political Dynamics Of Punjab,
Paul Wallace and Surendra Chopra, eds. (Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev
University, 1981). The tenn "revisionist," as used here, refers to the revision
of the thesis that modernity and tradition are polar opposites and that
consequently modernization necessarily leads to secularization.
2. Cynthia Enloe, Ethnic Conflict and Political Development (Boston: Little.
Brown and Co .. 1973).
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial
use only.
(SGPC) for the management of Sikh shrines, was a major
landmark in the politicization of the Sikhs. With their political
base in the Jat Sikh community, these organizations supported
the Indian Nationalist Movement. But as a "religio-political
organization," the Akali Dal exploited religious sentiment to
gain political influence. Opposing the Indian National Congress
policy of refusing to cooperate with the British during WWII,
the Akali Dal used the position of the Sikhs in the British-Indian
Army to further their political goals.
After Independence, the demand for a Punjabi-speaking
state led to the demand for a Sikh state. The Akali Dal,
concerned with maintaining the cultural identity of the Sikhs,
argued that the secular democratic framework of the Indian
Constitution was detrimental to the interests of religious
minorities. They wanted a state which would "protect Sikh
interests." The Punjabi Hindus also moved toward com­
munalism, claiming Hindi as their language in greater numbers.
At the Center, political leaders viewed Akali demands for a
Punjabi speaking state (Punjabi Suba) as communal.
Narang's analysis shows that politicization of the Sikhs
was closely related to socio-economic developments in Punjab.
Just after Independence, the Akali Dal, whose political base
was in the depressed rural castes, claimed that political freedom
had left the Sikhs worse off. The Party exploited cultural
symbols and religion to stir emotions, dramatizing the alleged
discrimination against back ward castes (p. I 13).
Furthermore, the Akalis demanded "all decision making
powers to the Khalsa," as the Sikhs in the Party's view
constituted a distinct political community. Rejecting the
concept of secularism, in theory, the Party claimed identity
with the Sikh religion and the absolute right to sovereign rule.
But while the Akali Dal used religion as a unifying force
in the Sikh community, economic and class interests under­
mined these efforts. The urban commercial Sikh castes,
particularly in lullundur, opposed the division of Punjab and
the creation of a Hindi-speaking state, prior to the 1960s.
During the 1960s, the Green Revolution increased the wealth
and influence of the rural elites. According to Narang,
increasing class polarization led both Sikh Harijans in rural
Punjab and the Hindu Scheduled castes of present Haryana to
oppose the demand for the creation of a Punjabi-speaking state
because they would be subjected to the political rule of the
new class of rural elites. In this instance, class consciousness
was a stronger force than religious or communal consciousness.
A rural-urban dichotomy also arose within the Sikh community
with the rural-based Akali Dal exploiting religious sentiment
while the urban Sikhs drifted toward a more secular mode of
political participation within the constitutional framework.
With the granting of Punjabi Suba in 1966 by Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi, the political influence of the newly
affluent lat Sikh elite grew vis-a-vis other sectors of society in
Punjab. The political base of the dominant factions ofthe SGPC
and the Akali Dal Party had shifted to this elite, which benefited
disproportionately from the increased agricultural production
brought about by the Green Revolution.
Simultaneously, the quasi-federalist national political
structure became more and more centralized culminating in
Emergency Rule (1975-1977). After new elections were held
in 1977, the Akali Dal joined with the Hindu-based lana Sangh
to form the new state ministry. Punjabi Suba had created a
Sikh majority state, but the Akalis found themselves unable to
rule without forming a coalition with other parties, as Sikh
communal solidarity continued to be diluted by diverse class
and economic interests within the community. The Party
simultaneously exploited communal religious rhetoric to
increase support among the less educated rural Sikhs while
attempting to broaden its political base from a communal to a
regional basis.
Narang shows that the political rule of the Akali Dal in
Punjab resulted in increased repression of agricultural laborers
as the Akalis aggressively opposed implementation of land
reforms. Defending the interests of the landed lat Sikhs, the
basis of their political support, the Akalis demanded increased
inputs from the Center for agricultural development, a greater
share of river waters for irrigation and the freedom to keep
agricultural eamings in the state to capitalize new industries.
Symbolic demands, which included the declaration of Amritsar
as a Holy City, were also made upon the Central Government.
From 1967 until 1980, the grip of religious leaders upon
the Party was weakened, but efforts to establish the Party on
a regional basis failed. Narang argues that communal appeals
were necessary in order for the Party "to keep its grip upon
the masses."
In 1978, the founding of the Dal Khalsa by Sikh youths
marked the beginning of the rising influence of radical
right-wing groups who demanded a Sikh nation or "Khalistan."
Its support base was largely among the rustic elements, the
rural Nihangs, Sikh Sants and lathedars. The Akali Dal did
not support the demand for Khalistan, but the growing
popularity of the radical right forced the Party to the right as
the Central Government sought to repress the rebels.
Since Narang's book was published, the confrontation
between the Sikh radicals and the Central Government has
escalated with thousands of political arrests, the Central
Government's assault on the Golden Temple in Amritsar,
resulting in the death of Sant lamial Singh Bhindranwala and
several hundred followers, and widely scattered communal
clashes between Sikhs and Hindus in Punjab and Haryana. The
recent assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by Sikh
guards in New Delhi and the violent aftermath has precipitated
perhaps the greatest political crisis facing India since
The book provides a great deal of useful background
information on the present political conflict in Punjab, but the
author's attempt to fit recent developments into a theoretical
framework fails. Following the revisionist analysis of Wallace,
he takes issue with the social mobilization modeP in which
economic development (industrialization) was seen to be the
driving force for social change whereby traditional elements
(parochialism and communalism) were weakened and "mod­
em" individuals with secular concerns emerged. He argues that
on the contrary, the growth of sectarian politics can be traced
to "the process of modernization in a particular social system"
(p. 223). Economic development, then, becomes the driving
force behind "sentiments of parochialism, communalism, and
racialism" which are a part of "the process of foundation of
the sovereign civil state" (p. 233).
3. See, for example, Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society
(Glencoe: Free Press, 1958), and Alex lnkeles and David H. Smith, Becoming
Modern: Individual Change in Six Developing Countries (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press. 1974).
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
There are several problems with this explanation. Such a
detenninistic view is one dimensional as it sees the individual
as a passive object of social mobilization rather than a
subjective agent of social change. It lacks explanatory value
since it can be used to explain both secularization and
de-secularization. Further, this explanation is at odds with the
author's own analysis in which he stressed the role of
charismatic religious leaders in exciting communal passions in
rural areas. Thus it neglects the important psychological and
emotional element in Indian politics as well as the importance
of non-secular charismatic leadership. The explanation also
neglects the role of religious ideology. As the author points
out, the Akalis demanded "all decision making powers to the
KhaLsa" (p. 119) on the basis that the Sikh community
constitutes a distinct political community. This concept
provides a theoretical justification for complete political
autonomy for the "Sikh Nation" under the rule of communal
leaders. While economic development and class tensions are
clearly related to the communal conflict, the role of leadership
and religious ideology should not be neglected.
Moreover, Narang's conclusion is confused further by his
uncertainty as to whether communal attachments are becoming
stronger in Punjab or whether society is becoming more secular.
Despite his argument that economic development reinforces
communal ties in the particular political culture of Punjab, he
points out that the focus of Punjab politics shifted from
"socio-religious" ("charismatic and agitational leadership") to
"socio-economic issues" after 1966. He also states that "Sikh
cultural nationalism became more moderate and accomodating"
with the granting of Punjabi Suba (p. 336). While this may be
true until recently, it is inconsistent with his theoretical model.
Finally, Narang argues that "the urge for autonomy is not
a divisive force ..." (p. 236). His vision for future Indian
society is a pluralistic one in which cultural nationalities in a
truly federalist system are guaranteed a maximum degree of
political autonomy. But it must be recognized that radical Sikh
nationalism which grounds the claim to absolute political
sovereignty upon religious ideology presents a serious obstacle
to the emergence of such a culturally pluralistic society. While
the Akali Dal was willing to participate in a quasi-secular
manner until recently, more radical elements have now sown
seeds of division, which, given the historical precedents for
political fragmentation in the Indian subcontinent, cannot ellsiIy
be ignored.
Howard N. Higginbotham, Third World Challenge to Psychiatry: Culture
Accommodation and Mental Health Care (Honolulu: University of Hawaii
Press, 1984).
Robert F. Scholz and Phyllis Andors (eds.), Work: An Anthology of Readings
(Fourth Edition) (Lexington: Ginn Custom Publishing, 1985).
Bruno Zorallo, Dalla Corea divisa alia Cina libera (Rome: Edizioni II Sellimo
Sigillo, 1984) (In Italian).
Southeast Asia
Teodoro A. Agoncillo, The Burden ofProof: The Vargas-Laurel Collaboration
Case (Manila: University of the Philippines Press, 1984).
Craig Etcheson, The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea (Boulder:
Westview Press, 1984).
Grant Evans and Kelvin Rowley, Red Brotherhood at War: Indochina Since
the Fall of Saigon (Thetford: The Thetford Press Ltd., 1984).
Philip M. Hauser, Daniel B. Suits, and Naohiro Ogawa (eds.), Urbanization
and Migration in Asean Development (Tokyo: National Institute for
Research Advancement, 1985).
Nancy Howell-Koehler, Vietnam: The Battle Comes Home: A Photographic
Record of Post-Traumatic Stress With Selected Essays (Dobbs Ferry:
Morgan Press, 1984).
Giff Johnson, Collision Course at Kwajalein: Marshall Islanders in the Shadow
of the Bomb (Honolulu: Pacific Concerns Resource Center, 1984).
E. San Juan, Toward a People's Literature: Essays in the Dialectics ofPraxis
and Contradiction in Philippine Writing (Quezon City: University of the
Philippines Press, 1984).
Kimmo Kiljunen (ed.), Kampuchea: Decade of the Genocide; Report of a
Finnish Inquiry Commission (Bath: The Pitman Press, 1984).
Hong Lysa, Thailand in the Nineteenth Century: Evolution of the Economy
and Society (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1984).
Ross Prizzia, Thailand in Transition: The Role of Oppositional Forces
(Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985).
Muhammad Ikmal Said, The Evolution of Large Paddy Farms in the Muda
Area, Kedah: A Study ofthe Development ofCapitalist Farms in Peninsular
Malaysia (Pulau Pinang: Universiti Sains Malaysia, 1985).
William Shawcross, The Quality ofMercy: Cambodia, Holocaust and Modern
Conscience (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984).
Ann Laura Stoler, Capitalism and Confrontation in Sumatra's Plantation Belt,
1870-1979 (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1985).
Nancy Viviani, The Long Journey: Vietnamese Migration and Settlement in
Australia (Carlton: Griffin Press Limited for Melbourne University Press,
South Asia
Maarten Bavnick, Small Fry: The Economy of Petty Fishermen in Northern
Sri Lanka (Amsterdam: VU Uitgeverij Free University Press, 1984).
Yvonne Fries and Thomas Bibin, The Undesirables: The expatriation of the
Tamil people "of recent Indian origin" from the plantations in Sri Lanka
to India (Calcutta: K.P. Bagchi & Company, 1984).
Mohammed Mohabbat Khan and John P. Thorp (eds.), Bangladesh: Society,
Politics & Bureaucracy (Dhaka: The City Press, 1984).
Jaganath Pathy, Tribal Peasantry: Dynamics of Development (New Delhi:
Inter-India Publications, 1984).
Baren Ray, India: Nature of Society and Present Crisis (Delhi: I.M.H. Press
Ltd., 1983).
Ashim Kumar Roy and N. N. Gidwani, A Dictionary of Indology, Vol. 2, D
to K (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, Inc., 1984).
Ralph Singh, Barbara Joshi and Surjit Singh (eds.), The Turning Point: India's
Future Direction? (Syracuse: Committee on Human Rights, 1985).
Michel De Vroey and N. Shanmugaratnam, Peasant Resettlement in Sri Lanka
(Louvain-Ia-Neuve: TricontinentaI Centre, 1984).
Books to Review
The following review copies have arrived at the office of the
Bulletin. If you are interested in reading and reviewing one
or more of them, write to Bill Doub, BeAS, P.O. Box R,
Berthoud, CO 80513. This is not, of course, an exhaustive list
of the available books in print-only a list of books received.
We welcome reviews ofother worthy volumes not listed here.
Northeast Asia
John Crump, The Origins of Socialist Thought in Japan (London & Canberra:
Croom Helm Ltd.; New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc., 1983).
Bill Ford, Millicent Easther and Ann Brewer, Japanese Employment and
Employee Relations: An Annotated Bibliography (Canberra: Australian
Government Publishing Service, 1984).
Penelope Francks, Technology and Agricultural Development in Pre-War
Japan (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984).
David T. Hill, Who's Left? Indonesian Literature in the Early 1980' s (Clayton:
Monash University Press, 1984).
Janet E. Hunter, Concise Dictionary of Modern Japanese History (Berkeley­
Los Angeles-London: University of California Press, 1984).
Claude A. Buss (ed.), National Security Interests in the Pacific Basin (Stanford:
Hoover Institution Press, 1985).
Irene L. Gendzier, Managing Political Change: Social Scientists and the Third
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Bhabani Sen Gupta (ed.), Soviet Perspectives ofContemporary Asia (Atlantic
Highlands: Humanities Press, Inc., 1984).
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.
© BCAS. All rights reserved. For non-commercial use only.