“Socialism Is Great”

Sorry I have been out of touch for a day or so, however, I have been keeping up with my cycling (very sort trips less than 20 miles) but my time has been taken up with a non-fiction book by Lijia Zhang – I simply could not put it down, even when the lines of print were starting to blur. The title “Socialism is Great” is misleading and should be taken as Lijia’s subtle sense of humour. It is her life story from a school child in a poor household during the Cultural Revolution. She is bright, ambitious and determined to escape this life of poverty and daily grid – she sees the university as her way out. But at thirteen her mother, who works in a state factory wishes to retire and the government allows you to do so before the official retirement age by having someone take your place in the factory – Lijia is nominated to replace her mother in the factory, her dream of taking the entrance exam for teacher college is dashed.

This is warts and all story told in a most down-to-earth amusing way. it was the end of the cultural revolution and now the country was opening up to people setting up small market stalls in the marketplace, (free enterprise) it grows rapidly which in turn pushed up prices that the state-run system could not cope with – people having to take two jobs just to put food on the table. An unsettling time (echoes of privatisation in Scotland)

The political instructor Wang had caught her reading Jane Eyre – hidden under her desk during a propaganda lecture.

“an English book” he spat, shaking it violently, a disgusted look on his face. “Look at you, why do you dress up so fancifully for work? You like to worship foreign things, don’t you?”……….

“I have the freedom to choose what I wear,” I replied despite my nerves. “I haven’t broken any factory dress codes, have I? “

“Freedom? Some rotten ideas from the West have certainly gone to your head. This is a socialist factory. Reading a rotten foreign book during an important political meeting is a serious offence. You’ll be punished………..

Her story takes us through the growing pains of China’s move from a closed society to a more open and encompassing society – mainly through education.

Like Russia, the model that the Chinese communist party copied, was inclusive and imploded. When the Soviet Union collapsed – Gorbachove went to the West (Thatcher and Ragan) for help – they laughed in his face, and America move into the Baltic states, they hated communism now, having tasted the fruits so freely handed out by Capitalist America. Now many are seeing how they have jumped from the pan into the fire. Forbidden fruit always tastes sweet at first bite.

But unlike Russia – China did not take and eat the fruit of the West, they changed yes but on their own terms – a mirror image of America yes, but not controlled by the Western powers and that has scared America more and why we hear the rattling of nuclear swords today in Ukraine and in the South China Seas.

Captain Yule, – an academic, a school teacher, and a brilliant officer in the Salvation Army, once told me,

“To ignore is to not understand”

So buy this book and no matter what conclusions (or not) you draw from it, for I guarantee it will bless you with an honest and factual read, written by one that lived through that period and came out the other end an academic and brilliant storyteller. “Socialism Is Great” is a worker’s memoir of New China, and can be bought through Amazon (and no I do not receive any reward for the plug).  

What I received, other than a very enjoyable read was how we are talking about a time in recent history, 1970 onward – China went from an isolated community of poverty and hardship – and in a time span of only 30 years has become the world’s fastest-growing economy, that has managed to remain Chinese and not fall under power the Wall Street spivves.  We on the other hand in the UK have become more and more an appendix of Wall Street and because of Brexit a drawbridge nation – something that caused Russia to implode and China to change course. Maybe it is time for the Scottish people to look in the mirror too.

Stay safe.      


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