People in the West (especially the united states) ‘get’ and even appreciate it when a people who have faced brutal oppression carry out a violent reprisal whenever they at last rise up against their oppressor. They are willing to cheer on the cruel treatment of slave-owners and overseers in “Django Unchained” and of Nazis in “Inglourious Basterds.”
So when these *very same people*, far from cheering, are instead completely outraged when confronted with the violence that happened during the revolutionary period in China, nothing can explain it besides their total ignorance of the fact that the peasants in China endured the cruelest, most heavy-handed of treatment from the landlords and their allies for hundreds of years. (See the excerpts from “Fanshen” below.)
What’s so frustrating about it is not the ignorance but rather their stubborn refusal to acknowledge that ignorance, let alone correct it, coupled with their eagerness to fly into fits of ill-informed, moralizing rage.
When I think about it, it seems like the other side of the coin of the soft condescension of the hushed-tone, “we are gentler now” anti-“totalitarian” moral education* that happens in u.s. public schools is this rage that goes suppressed most of the time only to erupt uncontrollably whenever they hear anyone defend anything they were taught was “totalitarianism.”†
They are systematically fluffed up with this distinct mindset of moral superiority that has the advantage to the bourgeoisie of making them emotionally brittle, allergic to the truth, and virulently anticommunist.
* i.e., the one that doesn’t make any meaningful differentiation between the Nazis and the Soviet Union.
† as though the civics classes that frame capitalist electoral democracy as the most rational form of political system, shitty history that frames amerika as inevitable and righteous, economics classes that preach deregulation, jingoistic blockbuster movies, relentless commodification of women’s bodies, individualism-glorifying pop culture, etc. etc. were any less a form of _totalizing_, all-around ideology-inculcation than anything that happens in *any* society.
as though the u.s.’s specific totalizing ideology wasn’t actively justifying and concealing the fact that the u.s. plays the primary role in propping up a world order where at least 20 million people die of easily avoidable causes each year and close to a billion people live in chronic malnourishment.
Also, as a comrade of mine pointed out after I made the above post, the u.s. bourgeoisie have created a culture where it is right to rebel against fascism and chattel slavery but totally reprehensible to rebel against capitalist electoral democracy or feudalism–partially because Western capitalism upholds so many feudal values. I think this is a spot-on way of summarizing the specific nature of the hypocrisy I was describing.
cw extreme violence
“Violence reached its zenith in relations between landlord and tenant, creditor and debtor. The gentry literally held the power of life and death over the peasants and personally carried out whatever punitive measures they deemed necessary when their interests were damaged or threatened. If they caught a thief, he was dealt with on the spot. One famine year a Long Bow peasant child, only six years old, stole some leaves from a tree belonging to his father’s employer. The landlord caught the boy, beat him black and blue with a stout stick, and docked his father $12. This amounted to the father’s earnings for the entire year. He had to borrow money from a relative to get through the winter and was still paying off the debt a decade later.
In the village of Sand Bank, not far to the west of Long Bow, a poor peasant named Hou took a few ears of ripe corn from the field of a rich relative named Hou Yu-fu. Hou Yu-fu caught the culprit, dragged him into an open yard in the village, had him strung to a tree, and personally flogged him until he lost consciousness. Not long afterwards this man died of internal injuries.
Should a peasant attempt to defend himself, affairs could easily take a very ugly turn. One Taihang peasant struck back at a landlord who raped his wife. He was hung by the hair of his head and beaten until his scalp separated from his skull. He fell to the ground and bled to death.
Only if the landlord found it impossible to cope with a peasant did he go to the village government for help. Then the constable, who carried a revolver, and a few stalwarts from the Peace Preservation Corps armed with rifles, soon straightened out the matter. Should the local forces prove inadequate the rifles of the whole district could easily be concentrated on one village and if this was not enough, the county magistrate had at his disposal a standing force of several score armed men in permanent garrison.
Little wonder that the peasants seldom resisted the demands of the gentry. They knew only too well what would happen to them if they struck back. In their own experience and in the history of the region there was no lack of precedents.
When agrarian revolt flared in isolated parts of China after the suppression of the Great Revolution in 1927, neither the legitimate gangs of the village politicians nor the illegitimate gangs of the local despots were enough to suppress them. Then Chiang Kai-shek introduced additional forms of control into every village reached by his power—the pao-chia system of mutual responsibility, and the Kuomintang Party organization.
The pao-chia system was a variant of the traditional hi (neighborhood) and chia (10-family group) system already described. The ten families of the chia and the hundred families of the pao (the lu was an intermediate level) were held collectively responsible for the activities of each and every one of their members. Key individuals were expected to report their neighbors’ every move, and everyone was punished when any member of the group was suspected of involvement in revolutionary activity. Mass executions were carried out under the slogan: “Better to kill one hundred innocent people than to allow one Communist to escape.”
The ruthless way in which the slightest defiance on the part of tenants and laborers was suppressed over the years created in the peasants a deep, almost instinctive, reluctance to mount an attack against the power of the gentry. Revolt after revolt had been crushed during 20 centuries of gentry rule. Those who raised their heads to lead them had either been bought off or had had their heads severed. Their followers had been cut to pieces, burned, flayed, or buried alive. Gentry in the Taihang proudly showed foreign visitors leather articles made from human skin. Such events and such mementos were a part of the cultural heritage of every peasant in China. Traditions of ruthless suppression were handed down in song and legend, and memorialized in the operas which were so popular everywhere. ”
(“Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village,”anticapitalismfaq.com/misc/Hinton_-_Fanshen.pdf)