Monthly Archives: August 2020

Chapter 12: First, the Landlords

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.


Chapter 12
First, the Landlords

Communism is established in countries as a dictatorship of the proletariat, when following pure Marxist doctrine. Dictatorships can only survive by suppressing their opposition. So there’s a measure of instability that comes with communism.

Mao Zedong was now the leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). But in order to maintain his leadership he would have to keep fighting for the “good cause.” And again, the end always justified the means, as far as this bloodthirsty tyrant was concerned.

The founding of the PRC in 1949 gave Mao the perfect excuse to unleash his cruelty upon the masses. He claimed he needed to secure the dictatorship of the proletariat.

At first he focused on landlords.

Even before the communists won, rich landlords found themselves under increasing threat, as evidenced by this photo of a farmer confronting a landowner in 1946.

Landlords had long been criticized and condemned by Chinese Communists as a major cause of poverty for peasants. So now that the PRC had been established, they were in some deep shit kind of trouble. Mao claimed that during the civil war, landowners had their chance to see the error of their ways, and that those who had not yet corrected their “excesses” would have to be dealt with.

But Mao felt reluctant to arrest landowners, and imprison or execute them at the hands of the state. He preferred landless peasants to do at least some of this dirty work. He wanted them to actively take part in the purging process, rather than be passive observers. He reasoned that in this way, ordinary folks would tie themselves to the revolution, wet their hands with blood, and thus become co-conspirators with him.

He made it clear to the people that landlords had no protection from the law, and that the state would not step in to interfere with any retribution anyone wanted to exact upon those who owned land. And that’s all the peasants needed to hear.

What followed was a bloodbath at the hands of mobs all over China. Landlords were hunted down, condemned by vigilantes, and executed in a variety of cruel ways. Some were buried alive, others were dismembered or strangled. The lucky ones were shot.

Struggle sessions became popular at this time. In these events, a landlord was put on display before a mob, while a speaker humiliated him or her by accusing the victim of many despicable crimes against the people, whether real or imagined. Then the victim would be thrown to the mob to be beaten, often to death.

Scholars estimate that up to five million people were executed by mobs in China, between 1949 and 1953. Millions more were sent to labor camps, where many perished. Mao’s pain was manifesting on a mass scale, and many millions were coming to understand him, under the cruelest circumstances possible.


Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 13: Killing Campaigns.

Chapter 11: Victory

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.


Chapter 11
Victory

Chiang Kai-shek may have been a cruel man, but he did have a sense of honor. So he kept to his word and united the Kuomintang (KMT) with the Communist Party of China (CPC), in a joint effort to oust their invaders. This was very popular with the Chinese people. They were incensed at the brutality of the Japanese, and were eager to join in the fight. As a result, Mao’s Red Army swelled from 50,000 to a massive 500,000.

A meeting between Mao Zedong (left) and Chiang Kai-shek (right), as collaborators against the Japanese.

During the fighting that ensued, Mao sat at his base and wrote books for his many troops. These books taught them guerrilla warfare tactics, introduced them to Marxist theory, and outlined a vision for a glorious Communist future in China. Mao never missed an opportunity to propagandize his “good cause.”

In August 1940, the United Front of the KMT and CPC slammed the Japanese, killing 20,000 enemy troops, disrupting rail lines, and retaking a coal mine. But after this encouraging joint success, the two sides began to clash. They skirmished against each other in one incident after another. Officially, they remained allies, but in reality they were competitors, jockeying for position, seeking the most advantageous situation for the inevitable resumption of civil war.

Soon after the Japanese surrender to Allied forces, an effort was made to reconcile the differences between Mao and Chiang. They talked and talked and yakked and yakked. And after 43 days of negotiations, they finally signed the Double Tenth Agreement on 10/10/45. In this agreement, the CPC acknowledged the KMT as the legitimate government, while the KMT in return recognized the CPC as a legitimate opposition party.

You’d think the two sides had finally figured out how to get along. But all the heartwarming Kumbaya and group hugs didn’t last long. The two sides soon began to clash in small military campaigns and shootouts that gradually intensified. Finally, in the summer of 1946, Chiang launched an all-out attack on the Communists, and the Chinese Civil War was back on.

The Red Army had been renamed the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA. American diplomats who had been to China knew that the CPC was less corrupt, stronger, and more popular than the KMT. But their advice fell on deaf ears in Washington, and the U.S. government backed Chiang Kai-shek with military assistance in his fight against the Communists.

But Chiang was such an enigma, he found it hard to gain support within his own country. Nobody could figure out his political vision. By this time, everyone knew he was against communism. But he also seemed to be against capitalism. He would crush Communists with one hand, while attacking and confiscating the wealth of capitalists with the other. But he pushed for government control of industry, so perhaps it’s best to describe him as an odd form of Socialist.

His main support came from gangsters, who he used as muscle for extorting money from capitalists, in order to fund his military expeditions. For this reason, corruption ran rampant throughout the KMT, and he had weak popular support.

But Mao was different. His political vision was clear to everyone, because everyone knew he was a Communist through and through. And he and the PLA enjoyed wide popular support from the underclass, the downtrodden, the peasants of China. In their eyes, Mao was going to level the playing field, destroy the overclass, and equalize wealth among all classes. And they were all for it.

In August 1945, shortly before the Japanese surrender, the Soviet Army had invaded and occupied Manchuria. After the war ended, the Soviets delayed their departure until Mao’s PLA could sneak in after them and take over the territory. This enabled the PLA to confiscate a large supply of arms left behind by the Japanese.

This gave Mao a huge boon. And Mao meant business. He was damned determined to use those arms to kill lots of people while winning this civil war.

In fact, Mao is famously quoted as saying, “A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.” At least he said this honestly. For him, the end justified the means, and this quote was fair warning to anyone expecting anything other than ruthless violence.

In May 1948, Mao ordered the siege of the city of Changchun, in Manchuria. His forces encircled the city and prevented food from entering. Civilians began to starve, and desperately attempted to leave this besieged metropolis, but the PLA prevented their escape. Mao wanted them to stay in place so they would consume any remaining food that KMT forces would otherwise eat.

They did eat the food, rending their cupboards bare. But they still were not allowed to leave. And after five hungry months of siege, at least 160,000 civilians had starved to death.

A regiment of the KMT defected to the Communist side, and attacked another regiment of the KMT that had been receiving favorable treatment in the distribution of food. This resulted in the capitulation and surrender of KMT forces in Changchun. Thus, the end worked out well for the PLA, but the means were ghastly.

Soon after the fall of Changchun, the remaining Manchurian cities fell like dominoes to the PLA.

Mao and the PLA pushed on relentlessly, mercilessly laying siege to more cities throughout China. Finally, in December 1949, Chiang Kai-shek was forced to flee mainland China to Taiwan. The civil war was over. Mao and his “good cause” of communism had won.


Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 12: First, the Landlords.

Chapter 10: The Crazy, Wacky Xi’an Incident

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.


Chapter 10
The Crazy, Wacky Xi’an Incident

In 1936, the Chinese civil war took a strange twist. Joseph Stalin came up with the cockamamied idea of the Communist Party of China (CPC) uniting with the Kuomintang (KMT) to take on their common enemy, the Japanese. Mao was cool to this idea, but he depended a lot on Stalin for help, and so on May 5, 1936, he humored Stalin by telegramming this proposition to Chiang Kai-shek. But Chiang predictably ignored the telegram. Those two hated each other.

Their refusal to set aside their differences to take on their common enemy led to the crazy, wacky Xi’an Incident.

General Zhang Xueliang (also known as Chang Hsueh-liang) was the main protagonist in this Incident. He had been the commander of KMT forces in Manchuria when the Japanese invaded in 1931. He knew his army was no match against the imperial forces, so he had retreated without a fight, practically handing over Manchuria to Japan.

But Zhang wanted Manchuria back, and he resented the fact that Chiang had decided to leave the Japanese alone, and instead focus on making war with Mao and his Communists. He zealously wanted the civil war to end, so that the Japanese could be driven out of Manchuria. He’d been criticized for his retreat from Manchuria, and he had his honor to regain.

The CPC knew this, and so they approached Zhang and made a secret deal with him, in June 1936. This agreement involved Zhang overthrowing Chiang, then uniting the KMT with the CPC, against Japan.

On December 12, 1936, Zhang and another KMT general named Yang Hucheng managed to pull off the impossible. Chiang had flown into Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, to coordinate a major assault on the Red Army. He headquartered in a cabin, where his security was not very strong.

Zhang Xueliang (left) and Chiang Kai-shek (right) in 1930, when they were still friends.

Zhang and Yang seized upon the opportunity this presented, and they had their bodyguards abduct Chiang, in what became one of the craziest kidnappings in history. They held Chiang against his will, but they did not demand money for his ransom, as one would expect from most kidnappers. Instead, they demanded that the KMT end their civil war against the CPC.

Chiang held out for a few weeks, refusing to meet the ransom demand. But when he realized his life was at stake, he finally struck a deal with Zhou Enlai of the CPC. He would go ahead and unite his forces with the CPC, and stop fighting them. In return, Chiang would be allowed to live, and could return back to the nation’s capital of Nanjing.

Zhang’s supporters urged him to execute Chiang, but he refused. A deal was a deal, and he had his honor to protect. So instead, this kidnapper did the honorable thing and returned Chiang safely to Nanjing.

But as soon as Chiang arrived back in Nanjing, he had Zhang and Yang arrested. Zhang spent the next 50 years under a loose form of house arrest, first in mainland China and then in Taiwan. Yang was imprisoned, and then executed in 1949.


Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 11: Victory.

Question: Which is Which?

Cranky Pants and JoyRoses13 have submitted a question, with a photo of two doors. Imagine you’re in a bar or restaurant, and have to use the restroom. You’ve asked where the restroom is, and have been pointed to these doors. You have to go really badly, and must make a split-second decision, based upon your gut instinct. Which door would you choose?

Which is which?

Chapter 9: The Long March

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.


Route of the Long March. There were actually three Long Marches, that all converged on Shaanxi, in the north. The dark red dashed line was the main march, and the route taken by Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, with their forces. The pink areas marked with X’s are Communist enclaves overrun by the KMT during the Fourth Encirclement Campaign. Notice that dashed lines run from two of these X’d out enclaves to new enclaves formed to the west. The pink, shaded areas that are not X’d out are Communist enclaves that were evacuated during the Fifth Encirclement Campaign. Map by Rowanwindwhistler. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Chapter 9
The Long March

85,000 Communist soldiers and 15,000 Communist cadres broke through the Kuomintang (KMT) line on October 14, 1934, and headed to southern Hunan Province. This began what would famously become known as the “Long March.” And it was indeed, very long.

It was a grueling and deadly ordeal of thousands of miles, which would later be mythologized and exaggerated to seem even more grueling, deadly, and long than it actually was. But even without exaggeration, the Long March was a heroic effort that galvanized the Communist Party.

By December 1st, 50,000 had already been lost through military casualty or desertion. They encountered heavy fighting, crossed rivers, and pushed tenaciously onward, finally arriving in Guizhou Province in January, 1935. There they were able to rest for a little while, catch their breath, and hold an important bureaucratic meeting to discuss their shitty situation.

This meeting is known as the Zunyi Conference. In this conference, Mao got involved in another fight. It was a power struggle over how they’d gotten into this mess, between some hand-picked leaders chosen by Stalin, and Mao and Zhou Enlai.

Zhou took responsibility for having made poor decisions, and criticized himself in front of the other leaders. But Stalin’s men did not take any responsibility. Mao, himself, had no responsibility, since he had been stripped of most leadership positions two years earlier. So he was in a position to criticize. And he went after Stalin’s men, and managed to have them demoted.

Zhou put his support behind Mao, and the two managed to emerge victorious. Mao emerged as the undisputed leader of the Communist Party. He was elected to Chairman of the Politburo, and leader of both the CPC and the Red Army. Zhou emerged as the number two leader.

They would both retain these #1 and #2 positions for the rest of their lives. Well, except for Mao, during the five years or so leading up to the Cultural Revolution. Stalin felt dismayed by all of this, but he grudgingly decided to support Mao.

Now Mao and Zhou were running the show. They knew the Red Army couldn’t stay where they were for very long, because Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT Army were after them. So the question put to Mao was, which way to go? North? East? South? West?

Mao decided on north by west. They would head west first, to evade the KMT. Then they would head north, until they reached Shaanxi Province in northern China. Shaanxi was near Japanese occupied territory. Mao reasoned that by fighting the imperialist Japanese forces, the Communists would win over the trust of the people, and could turn them against the KMT, who had abandoned their fight against the Japanese.

But China is a big country, and Shaanxi was a long, long way off from Guizhou Province, especially by foot. Mao led his troops through mountain passes. They fought their way over bridges. And when Chiang flew in KMT troops to meet him, he managed to outmaneuver the KMT and continue northward.

At one point, his forces encountered 50,000 CPC troops, led by General Zhang Guotao. Zhang urged Mao to head west to avoid capture, but Mao was stubborn in his direction north. The two forces parted ways. And onward Mao’s troops forged, through quagmires where they were attacked by Manchu tribesmen, and where famine and disease took the lives of many Red Army soldiers.

Communist leader addressing Long March survivors.

Finally they straggled into Shaanxi, 370 days and 5,600 miles later. Or so the propaganda claims. Some historians say they only traveled about three to four thousand miles, and the rest is exaggeration. But even so, it was a long, arduous, and costly journey. Only 7,000 to 8,000 of the original 100,000 managed to survive this march.

The Long March came at a tremendous cost to the Red Army and the Communist Party. But it was a moral victory for Mao. He became a celebrated hero, and this further secured his position as undisputed leader of the Party.

By the spring of 1936, Mao’s forces had increased to 15,000 strong. He began a recruitment and training operation, and by January, 1937, he was able to send guerrilla fighters into Japanese occupied territory to attack and harass imperial troops.


Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 10: The Crazy, Wacky Xi’an Incident.

Caretaking Tales

Caretaking Tales

(Unicorn Beam from Cranky Pants)

 

Cranky Pants has some pretty serious health issues these days, which is why she’s so cranky. You can watch videos about her ongoing battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis, at her blog (click this link). But at one time, when she was trying to be off disability, she worked as a caretaker for the chronically ill. This included patients with dementia, and patients who were terminally ill.

I imagine that’s one hell of a difficult job.

I feel grateful there are people like Cranky Pants, who are willing to do this kind of tough, dirty, and emotionally-draining work. Here are a few war stories–unicorns she recently beamed over to me–from her days as a caretaker:

 

My Favourite Client

 

This is pretty rough, yet it’s about my favourite client ever.

He was a young 67 and quite far gone with dementia. He should not have been at home anymore, but his wife couldn’t let him go. He was locked in his room at night to keep him and her safe.

When I’d come in the morning I’d have to unlock that door. Well imagine an entire room and my naked client smeared in feces, and my client peeing in the heating vent. That was the start of my every morning with him. I think I went every day.

Then I’d have to watch his demeanor, to gauge whether he was going to be the kind, gentle, confused man, or the violent one. It could switch in an instant. I’d have to walk him down a narrow hallway to the small bathroom. I’m stopping here because walking him down that hallway was dangerous. I had to make sure I was never behind him or backed up where I couldn’t get out, lest he switched to violent.

Then I’d have to get him in the shower. That was also dangerous for him and I. I would just hope that he stayed confused but compliant. I had to scrub the night’s worth of smeared shit off of him, then get him out, dress him, shave him, brush his teeth, all while hoping he didn’t turn on me or hurt himself.

I’d then have to get him fed and settled, if possible, so I could clean up his room and do the dishes.

His wife was the sweetest lady ever, and my heart broke for her. She still believed he knew who she was. He had no clue.

So the one day I went through the whole routine until we got to the kitchen for him to eat. I wasn’t standing close to him but I saw him switch into the violent person. He at this point only had a shirt on, and nothing from the waist down. He was not cooperating to get him completely dressed.

He ripped the glasses off his face and crushed them in his hand. At this point, he’s a danger to himself. His wife had come out of her bedroom to see if she could “calm” him. I got on the phone with my work and let them know what was happening. While I was on the phone he was escalating and started to throw chairs. Then he came up to me and ripped the phone right out of the wall.

I had my cell phone so I called work back and told them what he had done. They said to take his wife, get out of the house, and call 911. His wife fought me a bit, thinking she could get through to him. I said, “No, we need to get out now.” She made me promise that if I was calling the police, to ask them not to have the sirens on. At this point anything to get her out of the house and let me call for help.

So the police came, and by the time they got there he was back to his gentle, sweet, confused self. Go figure. The calls I made were following work protocol.

There was a time before this situation where I had my client all ready and settled in the living room. His wife came out to be with him, and he switched again. He grabbed her arm and started twisting it hard. I thought he was going to snap it. I was on him trying to fight him off her. Somehow I managed to get him off her. Thankfully her arm wasn’t snapped, but it was close.

After that incident with the police, my boss and staff came and had a sit-down with his wife and let her know that he cannot be at home anymore. She was really struggling with that, but he was both a danger to himself, anyone coming in to care for him, and her.

That was my very first care aid client, on my own. I don’t know why I loved it. Maybe the excitement of it. I really liked his wife. And I still think of them often, to this day. I wonder if he’s still alive, and how she’s doing without him, whether he is or not.

I think my favourite clients were the dementia patients and the terminally ill patients. I have training to work with the terminally ill as well.

The hard part of that job is that it traumatizes you, but you don’t really know it until years down the road. I developed a fear of growing old, from seeing all the suffering many of my clients went through. And with my own health even back then not being the greatest, I wondered what it would be like for me in old age.

 

The Sexually Frustrated Husband

 

Then there was another client who was terminal and had come home to die. Her husband was always hitting on me, even in front of her. One day he was doing that, and then said to his wife, right in front of me, that he doesn’t get sex from her anymore. I was so ticked off, I turned to him and said she’s come home to die.

She said, “Yes, I’m dying.”

Shortly after that, she said she needed to use the washroom, so I helped her. Then, as she was leaving the washroom, she started getting weak and dizzy. Her room was right around the corner. I kid you not, she didn’t make it fully on the bed, and she died right then and there. Her body let go, so I had to clean her up a bit, and we may have had to get her properly lying on the bed, not face down.

Her husband kept asking me if she was gone, and I felt that was not my job to be able to call it.

I called my boss, as was the policy, and she came over. The neighbour had come over too, by then. I don’t remember, but I assume the husband called the neighbour. He just kept asking, “Is she gone?” over and over. The neighbour told him she was. He needed to hear it from me, as the professional, but I couldn’t do that.

My boss, who was a nurse, told him when she got there.

My boss then told me I should go home and not go to my next client. I told her I was okay and she said, “No, go home.” I’m glad that she did, because when I got home the tears hit hard. She knew I wouldn’t be okay.

I am really good in emergency situations. I can think and do what needs to be done. Later is when it will hit me hard.

Chapter 8: The Encirclements

This is the next installment of my book, The Cultural Revolution: Then and Mao.
To read the previous installment, click this link.
To start at the beginning, click this link.


Chapter 8
The Encirclements

Zhou Enlai in the 1940s.

Mao’s “delicate” handling of the Futian Incident did not impress the Communist Party of China (CPC). Mao was stripped of his leadership of the Red Army, and General Zhou Enlai took over. But although this might seem like a setback, it turned out very well for the murderous Mao. General Zhou became Mao’s most loyal follower, and a formidable partner in the civil war and Communist revolution.

Zhou would later serve as Premier of China, from 1949 to 1976. He was politically astute enough to survive the Cultural Revolution, but a son and daughter were not so lucky. Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, had them arrested, tortured, and killed in 1968. So even Mao’s most loyal follower would eventually feel the sting of Mao’s pain.

Mao still retained some power, and was named Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars. Meanwhile, the CPC moved its headquarters to Jiangxi, as they considered it to be a secure location. Soon, the CPC declared Southwestern Jiangxi an independent Communist state, calling it the Soviet Republic of China.

But Chiang Kai-shek wasn’t having it. He sent Kuomintang (KMT) troops to Jiangxi and encircled the region, with the object of annihilating the Red Army. The Red Army was vastly outnumbered by the KMT, so Mao wanted to resort to guerrilla tactics. But Zhou Enlai was the new leader, and he preferred conventional warfare. He got his way, and surprisingly, Zhou was very successful.

Zhou defeated two encirclement campaigns, much to Chiang’s dismay and wroth. Finally, Chiang decided to personally lead the KMT in more encirclement campaigns. But Zhou defeated Chiang also, and sent him and the KMT packing.

In September 1931, the Empire of Japan invaded Manchuria, in northeast China, in what some historians refer to as the beginning of World War II. This saved the Soviet Republic of China from future attacks, as Chiang now had to focus on resisting the Japanese.

He left the Red Army alone, and this gave it a chance to expand the size of the Soviet Republic of China, until it included three million people. Peace prevailed, and for the next few years, Mao was able to implement a land reform program.

Then in 1934, Chiang decided that the Communists posed a greater threat than the Japanese, and he returned his focus on defeating the CPC of Jiangxi. He launched his Fifth Encirclement Campaign, and things were about to get very hairy.

The KMT laid siege on Jiangxi, cutting it off from the outside world, using concrete and barbed wire barriers. This was a blockhouse strategy, recommended by German military advisers, and it was highly effective. The Red Army found it impossible to breach these barriers.

The KMT also beefed up its troop numbers to a half million, vastly outnumbering the Red Army. Then they bombed the hell out of the Red Army, using military aircraft. It was overwhelming, and Zhou found he could not defend against the onslaught, regardless of the conventional warfare tactics that he tried.

The Jiangxi Soviet shrank further and further in size, against the slowly advancing Nationalist Army. Red Army casualties piled up and troop strength weakened. Supplies of food and medicine ran low. The situation for the Communists grew desperate. Finally, in October 1934, after 13 months of futile resistance, the CPC decided to evacuate.


Come on back in a few days for the next installment, entitled Chapter 9: The Long March.