William Hinton was born in Chicago in 1919. He first visited China in 1937 and then in 1945 returned as a staff member with the US Office of War Information. During an eight year period, he also worked as an English teacher at a university in Shanxi and as a tractor-technician for the United Nations. He and his wife lived mostly in the village of Long Bow.
His best known book, Fanshen, documents in detail, from an on-the-ground perspective, the revolutionary process, especially land reform, in the area, based on his experiences of it. As a Marxist, he opposed the ‘capitalist roaders’ in China’s Communist Party and in 1990 wrote his critique, The Great Reversal, which is available below on-line in full. He died in the US in 2004.
From the Preface:
“June 4, 1989, stands as a stark watershed in China’s modern history. The slaughter of unarmed civilians by units of the Peoples Liberation Army as they blasted their way to Tiananmen Square illuminated the “reform” era as nothing else could. It lit up, like a bolt of cosmic lightning, the reactionary essence of China’s current leading group.
“This essence was known to many in China and to some abroad long before the lightning struck in June 1989, but most members of the Western media and academic world were too mesmerized by China’s reform rhetoric and market progress to apprehend the reality of the events unfolding before their eyes. Since privatization matched their prejudices and a consumption boom confirmed its validity, they preferred not to look too closely at the underlying currents of economic dislocation, infrastructural decay, environmental degradation, social disintegration, cultural malaise, and rising class antagonisms that threatened to unravel the fabric of Chinese society.
“Mao Zedong was far more astute. More than twenty years ago during the Cultural Revolution, he exposed Deng Xiaoping, Yang Shangkun, and most of their “hard line” colleagues as capitalist roaders. He accurately predicted that if such persons ever came to power they would transform the Communist Party into a revisionist party and finally into a fascist party and then the whole of China would change color.
“The surprising thing is not how accurate Mao’s prediction turned out to be, but rather how quickly it materialized in history.
– William Hinton, 1990
The Contents are:
Introduction: China’s Rural Reforms
A Small Town in China: Long Bow 1978
A Trip to Fengyang Country, 1983
Reform in Stride, Rural Change 1984
The Situation in the Grasslands, 1985
Reform Unravels: Rural Change 1986
Bypassed by Reform: Agricultural Mechanization 1986
Dazhai Revisited: 1987
Mao’s Rural Policies Revisited
Why not the Capitalist Road?
Tiananmen Massacre 1989
The book is available here.
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