Stratum of Party Cadres of Chinese during the Maoist Era
During the Maoist regime, party organizations or party cadres comprised the Chinese bureaucracy. However, these cadres did not have any formal posts in the government. Nonetheless, they had a remarkable influence on the activities of the government. This forms the basis of most of Ma and Ye book. Growing up in the People’s Republic as written by Ma and Ye gives an account of the kind of life in China between the 1950s and 1980s. In the non-fictional book, the authors use their experiences and stories to capture the Cultural Revolution, which took place during Mao regime. Despite the fact that the two were Red Guards at the time of the revolution, they had not known each other at the time. In her account, Ye is critical of the experiences she encountered and the years she lost. On the other hand, Ma refuses to see herself as a victim of the revolution, citing incidences where she experienced solidarity with the revolutionists to the point of returning to led them a hand albeit for a short period. The book that is largely written in the form of non-fiction dialogue offers a good insight into how party stratum were broken and how the resulting political revolution paved the way for numerous other revolutions that helped shape modern China.
Stratum of Party Cadres
The Chinese’s Cultural Revolution, which took place during the Maoist regime, was orchestrated by a desire to build a better society (Ma & Ye, 10). Before the revolution, capitalism and class exploitation led to the oppression of those who were less fortunate. Not even those who were in party cadre were happy with the direction in which the society was headed. Ye particularly recalls from her father’s stories, how he had suffered internally seeing the oppression that the bureaucratic system imposed on the society (Ma & Ye, 11). The bourgeoisie had their struggles suffering within their families and class. According to Meisner (p. 10), this is, in fact, the major trigger of the revolution. The Bourgeoisie, with their traditional institutions and Confucian values had created a certain sociopolitical order (stratum) that was more inclined towards cultivating the values of capitalism and social stratification. In a change of events, some members of the gentry begun to turn away from the traditional values of their class. This was also facilitated by the adoption of Western values and the awareness that the traditional did not have the ability to deal with the threat posed by the foreigners. This made them become intellectually alienated (Meisner, 10) and soon after, they became politically and socially alienated too. Coupled with the inability to bear with the inside pathetic status of their families, those who had become intellectually alienated became more willing to join the CCP ((Ma & Ye, 12).
In referring to her father, Ye informs the audience that despite the fact that he had become aware of the injustices in the society and at the family level, it was the school that first exposed him to political education (Ma & Ye, 12). Political education provided Ye’s father and hundred others with enough knowledge to question the ruling class as well as the government. Slowly but surely, a communist system had begun to form and was secretly mobilizing peasants to join their cause. The communist system was hoping to influence as many people and sink its roots deeply in the Chinese society (Schoppa, 308). Despite this, the Confucian system led by Zen Guofan’ army was able to repel most of the initial attempts by the revolutionists to change people’s mind set. Ma and Ye (12, 19), hints that at the first following the attack by Japanese and before the latter moved to occupy China; the Chinese army had been reluctant to counter the attackers. This further infuriated the communism system, and this can be seen as one of the reasons as to why the system failed to join in the fight against the Japanese. Contrary to Ma and Ye, PBS, informs that the communists had been sought after to assist in the fight against the Japans. However, after the defeat of the Japanese, the government gagged with the poor against the communists.
After the defeat of the nationalist government, communism ideologies started to be disseminated in the society through various means. For example, children books with communist themes were encouraged and fear instilled to remove preexisting ideologies (Ma & Ye, 17). These sentiments are shared by Meisner (15) who points that the Chinese past was rejected through an ardent faith of the youth. The youth and the children were to be the bearers as well as agents of a new culture. They were seen as important for the creation and maintenance of a new society. The young generation was perceived as uncorrupted and relatively uninfected by the old traditions (Meisner, 15). It was further expected this new generation was more amenable to new values and ideas as compared with their elders and therefore could be relied upon to bring cultural transformation and by extension salvation for the new nation.
The communist system had high expectations for the youth given them a responsibility to shape the political future of the country. To live up to these expectations, the young people were required to reform their ideologies and allow the ideas of the revolution to take root instead. This led to revolutionary movements in many schools across the country with the same goal as the political revolution movement that had defeated the Nationalist government; to change the mindset of the young people. Films and books became tools for pushing for this endeavor with authors and actors creating characters who could be emulated (Ma & Ye, 52). Some changes took place and which would later lay the basis for the coming Cultural Revolution. First, Mao’s writing acquired unprecedented popularity to an extent of being regarded as the red bible or the absolute authority. Secondly, the concept humanism started to be seen as bourgeois given its nature and the society started to reject it. Thirdly, the background of one’s social class became a key aspect in his or her identity.
Seemingly, attitudes towards the reform of the party strata and social structure attracted both was welcome from both ends but infuriating in the middle. In this regard, the ordinary citizens and the central leadership supported the revolution idea with positivity, while the bureaucracy (Confucianism system) was against it. For example, women would for the first time work alongside in their homes with their husbands (Schopp, 326). Previously, women were only confined to household chores, which included caring for their families and cooking among other chores. Ordinary citizens cannot however be treated as undifferentiated aggregate in discussing their role in the revolution process. While it is agreeable that most of the peasants got more than they lost, this was more specific for rural peasants. Urban peasants, on the other hand, were divided regarding their attitudes towards the resulting economic and social reforms. Financial policies according to PBS were chaotic, and people living in urban areas had a rough life, which led to more calls for reforms.
In their non-fictional book, Ma & Ye successfully employ dialogue to highlight the issues that China faced before and after through the revolution. Through the dialogue about their childhood and memories derived from the lives of their parents, the authors paint a good picture of the forces and the consequences of the political revolution. They give a clear account of how a revolution that aimed at overthrowing the Confucius system and instead replace it with communism. Starting with explaining how the intellectual gentry defected from their class and sought the support of the peasants to overthrow the bourgeoisie ideology and free the society from the injustices created by the traditional system.
The dialogue is crafted to take the audience through the struggles that the revolutionaries went through including confrontation with the Confucius army and loss of popularity among many peasants following the defeat of the Japanese. Further, the dialogue paints a good picture of how after the revolution, the communist government strived to cultivate a new ideology. The government used children and young people who at this time were regarded as agents of cultural change and a secure country. Even the books and films, which later emerged, were designed to instigate a feeling of importance and pride among the young people.
Reading this book, the audience develops a vivid image of what was happening in China before and after the political revolution even if some of the ideas presented are just but memories. Truly, this is a good, rich and informative book for lovers of history. The book offers a rich history of what occurred in classical societies. Equally, the book no doubt demonstrates how information can be passed from one generation to the other and still retain the intended meaning. Available on paperback from different online stores, this is a must read for all lovers of history and nonfictional literature.
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