“They ate the earth”. One of the most troubling lines for me from the documentary.
The GLF is devastating. In the beginning as the communes came into being, quotas were put on each commune that were quite high, but promised the peasants if they made them they would be doing such extraordinary things for China and the Revolution that they not only exhausted themselves and their supplies but they lied. If the quota was 100kg they would promise 120kg and claim they made it. So the Government would say, “fine, you raised 120kg of produce, give us 100 and keep the rest for yourselves”. The problem was there wasn’t a “rest” for themselves and they shipped away all their food.
Mao and others toured the countryside to see the incredible harvests for themselves. They were greeted by visions like the picture below;
carefully orchestrated and in no way reflective of reality. In one sad account in the film a farmer, newly introduced to petro-chemical fertilizer, digs a giant pit, pours in all the seeds he has, all the fertilizer he has… and grows nothing. They shipped away what they had. They ate roots, and bark, and ultimately even the earth. Death tolls range from 20 to, in the book at the top, 40 million persons.
In another tragedy of the day, steel production needs to be increased so the peasants are encouraged to build back yard steel furnaces;
as seen above. The unfortunate reality, as shown and testified to in the the film, is that they take all their bed frames, pots and pans, and everything useful made of metal, and melt it down into useless pot-metal. They didn’t have the sophistication to make real steel. Apparently for sometime these furnaces could be seen lighting up the countryside for miles around, and they were literally melting their future away.
I’ll leave it to you to google the grissly images of the famine. I couldn’t bring myself to reproduce one here. Needless to say the GLF appears to have been the height of human suffering, and like some other famines, as in the Ukraine, or Ireland, a result of government policy, more than any natural circumstance.
The Sino-Soviet split has traces going back to the 1920s. Here you simply get a fine tuning of the point near the center of the circle and the mysteries of the cultural revolutiopn and death of Lin Biao are explored further.
Happy New year!
Remember to get your Rough Drafts in at the end of the first week back!