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The “back to the land,” movement was introduced not only to increase agricultural production but to provide more employment for the many workless of the cities, reduce beggary and in order to draw the literate classes and the peasants together. Even university graduates must spend at least a year at farm work or some other form of manual labour, while undergraduates spend a weekend each month in a similar way. The slightest complaint is liable to the discipline of banishment to some harder task in the interior until the offender is cured of his “independent,” views. In such conditions of life it is not surprising that suicides are common.
Actually the experiment with communes has not proved the success hoped for. The system is profoundly hated by the people, many of whom in sheer desperation have been driven to open opposition. Then famines and food shortages caused mainly by the boosting of agricultural exports have seriously disrupted the programme in several regions. Strict rationing was introduced into the cities including Shanghai where not a few commodities formerly common are now no longer obtainable. In the Spring of this year the meat ration there was down to two ounces in ten days, with a monthly allowance of 8 oz. fish, 12 oz. edible oil and 4 oz. of sugar. For clothing 21 ft. a narrow cotton cloth is the year’s supply for each. In the shops no eggs are to be bought, no fruit except now and then a few spotted apples, and very few fresh vegetables. Occasionally one may be able to get a cooked dish. Arabian dates and sugar cane are sold for cake-making! In consequence of these difficulties, the Red Government has been compelled to close down a number of communal centres and modify the procedure at others.
It has long been known that Cummunism is militantly atheistic. Its leaders oplenly declare a determination to wipe out Christianity, which they see as the chief rival on their horizon. During the past year or so the real aim of the Red Governments of China and North Korea has become plain to the outside world. This is the complete immobilisation of the Christian Church rendering it wholly ineffective as an influence in Chinese and Korean society. The only purpose of its continuance is to be a leading propaganda agency for the Communist regime. It was so used in the Korean war. When the Communist armies first overran the provinces of China after the Second World War the new government made extravagant promises of “deliverance” for the people including religious liberty. It was soon found, however, that the Reds’ concept of freedom differed greatly from Western standards. Actually there is more religious freedom in Russia today than in Red China.
Soon after coming into power the Communists established a Bureau of Religious Affairs, which, working through the already existing Three Self Patriotic Movement was to line up all the Protestant churches behind official policies. There Self means self-government, self-supporting and self-propagating, exempary aims when rightly understood, but in the Comunist interpretation involves Government control over the whole Movement.