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Vol. 11, No. 4: OctoberDecember 1979
Anthony Barnett - Inter-Communist Conflicts and Vietnam
Laura Summers - In Matters of War and Socialism, Anthony Barnett
would Shame and Honor Kampuchea Too Much
Ben Kiernan - Vietnam and the Governments and People of
Robert T. Snow - Multinational Corporations in Asia: The Labor
Intensive Factory
Ulrich Vogel - K.A.Wittfogels Marxist Studies on China
Tu Wei-ming - A Note on Wittfogels Science of Society
Hassan N. Gardezi - South Asia and the Asiatic Mode of
Production: Some Conceptual and Empirical Problems
Jon Halliday - Bibliographies on Korea
Jean W. Adams - The Utilization of Surplus Labor in the Peoples
Republic of China
Peter Bertocci - Saint Jack / Cinema Review
Marilyn Young - Apocalypse Now / Cinema Review
BCAS/Critical AsianStudies
CCAS Statement of Purpose
Critical Asian Studies continues to be inspired by the statement of purpose
formulated in 1969 by its parent organization, the Committee of Concerned
Asian Scholars (CCAS). CCAS ceased to exist as an organization in 1979,
but the BCAS board decided in 1993 that the CCAS Statement of Purpose
should be published in our journal at least once a year.
We first came together in opposition to the brutal aggression of
the United States in Vietnam and to the complicity or silence of
our profession with regard to that policy. Those in the field of
Asian studies bear responsibility for the consequences of their
research and the political posture of their profession. We are
concerned about the present unwillingness of specialists to speak
out against the implications of an Asian policy committed to en-
suring American domination of much of Asia. We reject the le-
gitimacy of this aim, and attempt to change this policy. We
recognize that the present structure of the profession has often
perverted scholarship and alienated many people in the field.
The Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars seeks to develop a
humane and knowledgeable understanding of Asian societies
and their efforts to maintain cultural integrity and to confront
such problems as poverty, oppression, and imperialism. We real-
ize that to be students of other peoples, we must first understand
our relations to them.
CCAS wishes to create alternatives to the prevailing trends in
scholarship on Asia, which too often spring from a parochial
cultural perspective and serve selfish interests and expansion-
ism. Our organization is designed to function as a catalyst, a
communications network for both Asian and Western scholars, a
provider of central resources for local chapters, and a commu-
nity for the development of anti-imperialist research.
Passed, 2830 March 1969
Boston, Massachusetts
Vol. 11, No.4 / Oct.-Dec., 1979
Antony Barnett
Laura Summers
Ben Kiernan
Robert T. Snow
Ulrich Vogel
Tu Wei-ming
Hassan N. Gardezi
Jon Halliday
Jean W. Adams
Peter Bertocci
Marilyn Young
Address all correspondence to:
BCAS, P.O. Box W
Charlemont, MA 01339
2 Inter-Communist Conflicts and Vietnam
IO In Matters of War and Socialism, Anthony Barnett
Would Shame and Honor Kampuchea Too Much
19 Vietnam and the Governments
and People of Kampuchea
26 Multinational Corporations in Asia
The Labor-Intensive Factory
30 K. A. Wittfogel's Marxist Studies on China (1926-1939)
38 A Note on Wittfogel' s Science of Society
40 South Asia and the Asiatic Mode of Production:
Some Conceptual and Empirical Problems
45 Bibliographies on Korea
51 The Utilization of "Surplus" Labor
in the People's Republic of China
64 "Saint Jack" / cinema review
66 "Apocalypse Now" / cinema review.
68 Pinyin Romanization Conversion Table
70 Books to Review
70 Index for Volume II, 1979
71 Appendix
72 Letters
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Inter-Communist Conflicts and Vietnam
by Anthony Barnett*
"Hardly had the Yugoslavs made themselves comfort
able, two or three hours after their arrival (in January 1948),
than Djilas received an invitation from Stalin to call on him
at the Kremlin, if he was not too tired from the journey.
Djilas went immediately and was welcomed by Stalin and
Molotov. Without many preliminaries Stalin began to speak
about the Albanian problem. 'The Government ofthe USSR
has no pretentions whatsoever concerning Albania. Yugo
slavia is free to swallow Albania any time she wishes to do
so.' At the word 'swallow' Stalin gestured: he licked the
fingers ofhis right hand.
D jilas was astonished by this remark, and retorted, 'But
comrade Stalin, there is no question ofswallowing Albania,
only of friendly and allied relations between the two
'Well, that's one and the same thing,' Molotov
(Tito Speaks, by V. Dedijer, London 1953, p. 320)
The conflicts between the socialist states of Vietnam,
China and Kampuchea form a crisis of great significance for
socialists and a turning point in world affairs. In general terms
socialists have to face up to what is now a pattern in the
relationship of neighboring Communist states. As these are
currently organized, they have regularly got into conflict with
each other. The first ofthese conflicts began with the emergence
of the second socialist state to gain its existence primarily
through its own armed struggle: Yugoslavia. Within three years
it was isolated and anathematized by the Soviet Union. Without
going through the entire list of these disputes, mention must be
made of the central conflict, around which is axed the im
perialist strategy of today-the Sino-Soviet conflict. The con
temporary degeneration of relations between the Communist
states in and bordering Southeast Asia, is only the latest in a
succession almost as long in time as the existence of a plurality
of socialist countries.
* This article appeared in Marxism Today. August 1979, in England. A few
copy-editing changes have been made. Reprinted with permission.
Like the essays on Kampuchea by Steve Heder (in Vol.
11, No.1) and Torben Retboll (11:3), the debate be
tween Anthony Barnett and Laura Summers and the
report by Ben Kiernan continue a most important
dialogue. Summers and Barnett highlight two major
questions: 1) why did Vietnam invade Kampuchea;
and 2) what was China's role in the outbreak of hos
tilities between Kampuchea and Vietnam? Kiernan
focuses on the nature of the Pol Pot and Heng Samrin
governments. Since many issues remain to be docu
mented and explicated in a comradely way -including
the role of the "superpowers," the class bases of the
Kampuchean regimes, the purposes of Vietnam, and
so on-the Editors of the Bulletin invite other essays
and further comments.
Why should this be the case? Socialists can in no way afford
to evade this question, but nor should we pin it to our breasts
with a great wailing of mea culpa. These conflicts are an aspect
of the struggle against the world domination of capitalism. That
is to say, the conflicts between socialist states are part of an
imperialist policy of divide and rule.
To insist on this point is not to take an easy way out of the
problem. On the contrary, it is all the more shameful to divide in
the face of the enemy than in other circumstances. Furthermore,
I began by pointing to the established pattern of inter-socialist
strife because there is something structural about it. The ham
mer blows of imperialism have forged state systems in the
socialist countries that can be embattled, secretive and often
dictatorial. These states conduct their relations with each other
in secret, and therefore their communist parties conduct inter
party relations as a special form of national diplomacy. Inevit
ably, the national moment takes priority over the socialist one.
In certain circumstances, of course, secret diplomacy and pa
tient efforts at patching up differences are necessary. The Viet
namese Communists were supremely good at this until victory,
and would not have won their victory without such an approach.
And this is a good example of the way in which socialist
countries have internalized a form of conduct which is ulti
mately very divisive, as a function of defending themselves
from attack. I will return to this aspect below, when I mention
the secrecy of Vietnamese relations with China and
But let me go back to my opening sentence: the crisis does
not merely concern socialists; the conflict within Southeast Asia
represents a turning point of a special kind. Vietnamese unifica
tion, 30 years after the French attempted to reverse the verdict of
Ho Chi Minh's August Revolution, has been one of the greatest
triumphs in mankind's liberation from exploitation and oppres
sion. With the irreplaceable material aid of the socialist coun
tries, but with only their reluctant assent and at times even
against their wishes, the Vietnamese people, led by their Com
munist Party, broke the hegemony of the United States over the
post-war world. Today, the Western media and the Chinese
press are trying to stain and tarnish the quality of that magnifi
cent achievement. In their efforts they really condemn them
The victory of 1975 has brought into existence more than
the three socialist countries of Indochina-Vietnam,
Kampuchea and Laos. Without it, there would not today be
socialist governments in the process of consolidating power in
Angola or Ethiopia, to take two obvious examples. The wars
which broke out this year have given imperialism a chance to
reverse the result. First a campaign has been launched, and it has
been quite consciously deliberated, to re-Iegitimize direct U.S.
intervention. Second, the Vietnanlese are being attacked in an
effort retrospectively to justify the war. That is what the cam
paign over the "boat people" is about-to make that war
appear "honorable." Third, there is the hope that the "contain
ment" of the Vietnamese revolution will break its humanitarian
and democratic qualities, by making the regime there unpopu
lar, its economy unsuccessful. The hot war between the erst
while socialist partners has triggered off a new cold war whose
target is Communism everywhere.
At the same time, the fact of the 1975 victories must not
lead socialists themselves to be confused as to the real balance of
power on a world scale. The Vietnamese astonished the world
because they defied the odds against them. But those odds still
remain stacked, and whilst the overwhelming position of the
United States internationally has been broken, it is still easily
the most powerful country of the most powerful bloc. It is
especially important for socialists in the West to grasp this fact
and hold on to it, otherwise one's basic judgment will be
wrecked. It is almost impossible today to pick up a "serious"
newspaper without reading in it that Soviet imperialism is more
aggressive or more powerful than the West: that the West is now
the weaker of the two forces contesting for superiority. This is
nonsense. All that has happened since 1975 is that the socialist
bloc is now no longer totally the subordinate.
The crucial economic index is simple enough. If one com
pares the total gross domestic products of the COMECON
countries with the major capitalist ones, the ratio is I to 4, that
The United States evidently played a blatant role in
bringing about the present state of hostilities. Beijing
only came out openly against Hanoi after Brzezinski
visited the Chinese capital in May 1978 and denounced
"regional hegemonism," code-word for Vietnam.
Hanoi and Beijing were played off against each other
by Washington, as each strove for diplomatic recogni
tion in the months that followed. Deng Xiaoping was
given permission for a short war with Vietnam, when
he went to Washington. That is to say, he raised the
matter and was assured that the new economic rela
tionship would not be affected.
is, the socialist countries create one-quarter of the wealth the
capitalist countries produce, counted in World Bank figures.
Insofar as there is a more equal military balance, its manufacture
is thus far more punitive for the socialist countries, which
anyway started from a much lower basis and have suffered far
more from military destruction. Furthermore, the need for this
military balance has further exacerbated the inherited economic
weakness of the socialist countries. And this stricture applies to
China as well, today perhaps more than to any other society.
The United States evidently played a blatant role in bring
ing about the present state of hostilities. Beijing only came out
openly against Hanoi after Brzezinski visited the Chinese capi
tal in May 1978 and denounced' 'regional hegemonism, " code
word for Vietnam. Hanoi and Beijing were played off against
each other by Washington, as each strove for diplomatic rec
ognition in the months that followed. Deng Xiaoping was given
permission for a short war with Vietnam, when he went to
Washington. That is to say, he raised the matter and was assured
that the new economic relationship would not be affected. The
roots of all this go back at least to the Nixon visit to Beijing and
Moscow in 1972, and in a more general way even to the 1950s.
There is no difficulty in demonstrating the divisive role of the
U.S.A. What must be understood is that this capacity to ex
acerbate division stems from its great economic superiority.
This has been a somewhat long introduction, but I think
that a balanced assessment is only possible when placed in the
actual context. Perhaps the best way to clarify the specific issues
raised by the conflicts in Southeast Asia is by asking a series of
1. Has There Ever Been Anything
Like It Before?
Yes. The obvious parallel to China/Vietnam/Kampuchea
is USSR/Yugoslavia/Albania after 1945, when the first tried to
exacerbate the position of the last in order to break the one in the
middle. The victory over Fascism in 1945 was followed in 1948
by the Yugoslavs being accused of being "fascist. "The parallel
between 1945 and 1978 is close even on this ideological level;
the Chinese press is currently, of all things, trying to accuse the
Vietnamese of "Fascism." In addition to the ideological "fit,'
there was in the I 940s the charge that Belgrade wanted to build a
Incredible as it may seem-and it is only explicable
through an analysis of the whole process of the revolu
tion in Kampuchea-there is no doubt: Kampuchea
systematically attacked Vietnam along the delta bor
der and rejected a reasonable peace otTer without even
any discussion of it.
Balkan federation, not that there is anything improper about
such a proposal; just as the Chinese are hysterical today over
alleged Vietnamese attempts to create an Indo-Chinese
The point of drawing such a comparison is that it allows
one to see very clearly that the primary contradiction is that
between Vietnam and China just as it was between Yugoslavia
and the USSR, whilst the contlict between the two smaller states
is secondary to the major dispute. In both cases attempts by the
"middle power" to conduct proper relations with its smaller
neighbor were ruined by the deliberate actions of the "great
2. Why Then Did the South East
Asian Instance End Up in War?
In a phrase, because Kampuchea attacked Vietnam. There
is absolutely no doubt about this point. American specialists,
uniformly hostile to Vietnam and desiring to cast it in the role of
an "imperialist power," have all acknowledged that Kampu
chea was the aggressor. They have access to U.S. intelligence,
and in writing for scholarly journals need to inform their readers
of the main elementary facts whatever gloss they may put on
them. And in this context, if not in the "serious press," it is
recognized that Kampuchea attacked Vietnam. (I am referring
to specialists such as Douglas Pike, Sheldon Simon, Carl Jack
son.) There were two waves of fighting. First, a wave of
incidents immediately after liberation in 1975. It was started by
Kampuchea, which seized Tho Chu island, continued by Viet
nam which seized Wei island in reprisal, but settled by the end
of the year, when a modus vivendi came into effect. Secondly,
beginning in 1977, there was a further wave after the Kampu
cheans had withdrawn from the border commissions. In particu
lar after April 1977, when a multi-divisional attack was
launched on Tay Ninh province of Vietnam, and then again in
September 1977 when, to coincide with the announcement of
Pol Pot's forthcoming trip to China, the Kampucheans attacked
along a 100 kilometer front.
Now, it is true that these are Vietnamese "claims," even if
they are accepted by U.S. specialists. How can socialists accept
them if the other side denies such facts? However, the other side
does not deny them. We know there was heavy fighting by the
summer of 1977, but the Kampucheans have never charged the
Vietnamese with attacking their country between 1976 and
September 1977. Therefore, the hostilities during the spring and
summer of 1977 must have been Kampuchean-initiated. We
also know that there was heavy fighting in September which led
to a Vietnamese counter-attack in December. Hanoi neither
acknowledges the latter, nor denies the fact, which is regarded
as common knowledge. Therefore, we must ask, who is right:
did the Vietnamese attack in September 1977 as the Kampu
cheans alleged in their first statement, when they broke off
diplomatic relations; or did the Kampucheans attack then, in
great numbers, causing much destruction, as Hanoi claims?
Well, the answer can be found in the Black Paper. This is
the long document published by Phnom Penh in September
1978. Its declared aim is to detail all the crimes of "annex
ationism" and so forth that Vietnam committed against Kam
puchea. In its formulations, it bears the evident hand of Pol Pot.
But, unaware of what his diplomatic service had prepared the
year before, he stated the truth in at least one respect, in his final
summary of Kampuchea's relations with Vietnam; the Kampu
chean Black Paper dates the Vietnamese attacks upon Kam
puchea in 1977 as beginning in December not September. It was
therefore in response to major acts of aggression over the pre
ceding eight months from April to September that the Viet
namese finally replied in force.
But it cost the Vietnamese very dearly. For the Chinese
egged on the Kampucheans to sever all relations with Hanoi and
to make the counter-attack public, so that Kampuchea would
appear the victim. What Stalin tried to trick the Yugoslavs into
doing, Beijing achieved with regard to Vietnam because Pol
Pot, being a lesser figure than Enver Hoxa, was desperate for
support and thus himself turned to a war mobilization to stay in
power. In December 1977 the Kampucheans were able to hold a
press conference in Beijing and announce that their country was
under attack from Vietnam, because until then Hanoi had re
mained silent.
Within a few days the Vietnamese withdrew their forces, a
fact celebrated by the Kampucheans as a massive military vic
tory which demonstrated that they could defeat their neighbors.
Hanoi issued its peace offer on February 5, 1978, despite the
Kampuchean attack into Vietnam in the wake of their withdraw
ing army. This offer of a permanent peace included mutual
withdrawals and international inspection of the frontier. The
Kampucheans refused this offer and did so repeatedly through to
April 1978. I will only make two points about it. First, it shows
that Vietnam's priority was a peaceful border. If its major
objective had been to "annex" or "subordinate" Kampuchea it
would never have suggested an internationally guaranteed bor
der between itself and its neighbor. Secondly, Beijing at that
stage was supplying Vietnam with one-third of its aid, and
Hanoi had made it clear that it prized multiple relations in order
to maximize its independence- it had recently turned down
offers from the USSR to join COMECON, precisely because
this would have meant a rupture with the People's Republic of
China. Thus, if China's interest had really been to safeguard the
integrity of Kampuchea it would not merely have moved to get
Kampuchea to accept the Hanoi offer, it would itself have made
a similar proposal. In fact its objective was to destabilize Viet
nam, whatever the cost to the Kampuchean people.
3. But Why Should Kampuchea
Have Attacked Vietnam?
In the first instance, I think it is clear that the Kampucheans
were given assurances by Beijing that were close to guarantees.
Overconfident and at odds amongst themselves the Chinese
encouraged hostilities. But they could only encourage some
thing which existed: a war party in Phnom Penh. This was the
Pol Pot group. Its rise to power over the Kampuchean revolu
tionary movement and its destruction of that movement will be
the subject of a separate study. But some idea of the instability
of the regime which resulted in Kampuchea after the evacuation
of the towns and the total militarization of civilian life into work
brigades is given by the following fact: there was a coup attempt
every ~ i x months from September 1975 to May 1978 in Kam
puchea. Major purge followed major purge relentlessly. Some
of these have been documented by Pol Pot's own propaganda
services as "Vietnamese coups." The major one which took
place in April 1977, and destroyed two very senior figures, has
not been so described. There was, it seems, a Chinese coup of
some sort, out of which Pol Pot emerged supreme. The major
attacks date from that point, and his role as a public celebrity,
after he had (thank you very much) agreed to announce the
existence of the Kampuchean Communist Party.
In Africa recently we have seen two examples of smaller
states attacking larger ones. Somalia struck at the Ethiopian
Ogaden after being encouraged by Saudi Arabia and the U.S.A.
Uganda attacked Tanzania in an effort to resolve internal ten
sions, stemming from the character of Idi Amin's regime. In
Kampuchea both these two pressures were at work. Incredible
as it may seem-and it is only explicable through an analysis of
the whole process of the revolution in Kampuchea- there is no
doubt: Kampuchea systematically attacked Vietnam along the
delta border and rejected a reasonable peace offer without even
any discussion of it.
4. But Why Did Vietnam Have To
Overthrow the Pol Pot Government?
In my opinion, a nation which attacks another militarily
thereby loses the defensive right accorded by the principle of an
inviolate national sovereignty. This principle surely cannot be
used as a shield to protect aggression. But you do not have to
agree with this to see that more was at stake than merely a border
conflict. Because of the economic and social situation in South
Vietnam, the attacks from Kampuchea threatened the whole
process of peaceful unification and the integrity of the revolu
tion in the South. Two things have to be borne in mind, relating
to time and to violence. The Chinese Ambassador in Laos has
been quoted as saying in 1978, after the fighting became public,
that it would be a "long, long war." Secondly, despite all the
hysteria in the press today, the Vietnamese diminished the
degree of violence in their country. The new economic zones,
for example, many of which were close to Kampuchea, were
aspects of a policy endorsed by an independent United Nations
mission which went to North and South Vietnam after the war
and before the country entered the United Nations. But the Viet
namese, absolutely rightly, have not used force against their
population to populate these zones. Pressure, inevitably, but
hard pressure is involved when a British Chancellor uses
unemployment to keep wages down. There is a world of differ
ence between this and forced movements of population, di
rected labor and the destruction of recourse to due process. This
was the difference between Vietnam and Kampuchea. But there
was a "drawback" to the Vietnamese choice. CQnditions of
peace had to prevail for such resettlement to take place, pre
cisely because it was not heavily policed. The process of healing
could not continue under conditions of hostilities. Thus, faced
with the prospect of a protracted conflict, the whole policy of
the VCP, to conduct peaceful unification and basic reconcilia
tion, was placed at risk. The victory of 1975 itself was at stake.
Perhaps even this strain could have been sustained by a
society already unified and working in unison. But this was not
the case with the southern part of Vietnam after 1975. The area
from the Saigon region southwards has historically been the
most militant in Vietnam, but it is also the most divided and
chaotic region, quite unlike the compact and homogeneous
North. It is divided ethnically, communally and economically
as well as politically. There are two major ethnic communities:
the Khmer and the Hoa (or Vietnamese of Chinese descent).
Both number over a million. The Khmer were used by the U.S.
as a base from which to recruit special forces, and counter
guerrilla troops, which were deployed inside Kampuchea
against the Vietnamese. The Chinese community, of course,
benefitted economically from the war and was extremely active
in the internal supply system, profiting more from the U. S. than
from the NLF. In addition to these two ethnic groups there are
three major religious groups as well as the Buddhist movement.
There are two large sects. The Hoa Hao is a militant millenarian
group, historically anti-Communist, based along the southern
part of the Vietnamese/Kampuchean border, and some of them
are apparently Khmer. The second religious group like the Hoa
Hao arose during the inter-war period as a response to the
pressures induced by French colonialism. The Cao Dai is a
syncretic religion, highly autonomous, and also based on the
border, in Tay Ninh province especially-scene of the April
1977 attacks.
Third, there is a large Roman Catholic community, well
organized and of course anti-Communist. Nearly a
million were brought South after Vietnam was divided in
1954. They were settled close to Saigon to give the capital
some protection, and evidently provided a social base for the
U.S.-backed regimes. Like the ethnic groupings, the religious
ones also created distinct political and economic interests. Now,
in a period of drawn out fighting, with the Chinese merchants
speculating in rice and the Khmer villages resistant to Com
munist organization, one can already see that an uncontrollable
division is a potential possibility.
But the economic situation made everything graver still.
Natural calamities added to a poor food situation, such that by
the end of 1978 half a million hectares of land that had been
initially cleared were lying fallow. It was and is imperative for
Vietnam to get this land under cultivation and begin the real
struggle against the after-effects of defoliation. This was impos
sible while there was fighting, which displaced hundreds of
thousands of peasants and obliged even more extremely fertile
ricelands to be left untouched, except by shells.
The Losses
One further point, because of the picture which is currently
being painted of Vietnam. The Party in the South, and the NLF,
suffered horrendous losses. The Communists too were part of
the fiery militancy ofthe region. There were 300,000 in the NLF
by 1963, at least. But the destruction wrought upon this move
ment and its cadres was very nearly complete. The core network
survived, but only underground. In many places losses were 96
or 97 percent. The Phoenix Program eliminated tens of thou
sands of the village representatives, many of them respected
individuals who were not Party cadres, but who administered
their communities when they had been liberated prior to 1965.
So, one must add to the imbalance and division of the South the
sheer difficulty of recovering from the war, when the winners
locally took much worse losses than the losers.
This brings me to the final group, the million plus of
ARVN troops, the tens of thousands of Thieu police and civil
servants, not to mention the many others employed directly by
the U.S.A., who were thrown out of their employment by the
victory of 1975. The Communists did and are doing everything
they can to win these people over to them, at least to respect the
Hanoi government and obey the law, as well as to eam their
living again in circumstances no longer subsidized by the richest
country in the world. In circumstances of protracted war, cre
ated by Kampuchean Communists, the achievement of such a
new allegiance is almost inconceivable.
In no way, it seems to me, could Hanoi have tolerated a
"long, long war" along its socially fractious and economically
fertile Kampuchean border. A war in the remoter regions of the
Cardamom Mountains was obviously preferable. Militarily, it
would mean greater losses in terms of troops and equipment,
and a bigger strain on the economy. But politically and socially
it could be handled, whilst a defensive border operation in
which the Kampucheans and their Chinese advisors (of whom
there were at least 10,(00) were granted the initiative, to strike
at will, was intolerable. Thus Vietnam, to strike back in its own
defense, had to do the job completely.
A final point, which needs to be made, follows from this.
The Pol Pot regime was the most terrible to have been created in
the name of socialism, and the full record will be worse, I fear,
than people now seem to believe. But this was not the reason for
its overthrow by the Vietnamese. It was the ultimate reason why
action was necessary, perhaps, but the primary motive for
Hanoi was to protect its own national process. It was for this
reason that it proposed international inspection of a demili
tarized border, that would have prevented any Vietnamese
dominance over Phnom Penh certainly for the foreseeable fu
ture. Hanoi's prime motive and objective was neither to assert
its hegemony over the whole of Indo-China in some illicit or
improper fashion, or by force, nor was it to get rid ofthe Pol Pot
government as an act of altruism to the Kampuchean people and
to the world. It was a defensive operation related to the same
issue which has obsessively concerned the Hanoi leadership for
a generation: the unification of Vietnam.
s. Why Did the Vietnamese Invade
Cambodia in Secret?
As I suggested earlier, I think this issue strikes at one of the
reasons for the propensity socialist states currently exhibit of
getting into conflict with eaoo other. There were two stages of
Hanoi's secrecy, each of which was followed by systematic
distortion in the Western media. The first, as I have said, was
when the Vietnamese did not reveal that they had been grossly
attacked. They thereby lost the opportunity to demonstrate that
they were unequivocally the victim of aggression on a scale
much greater than the small village attacks launched by the
Khmer Rouge against Thailand. Why did they keep quiet then?
First of all, because they did not want to provoke an irreversible
showdown with China, or play into Beijing's hands and the
hands of the Pol Pot group by publicly attacking Kampuchea.
There were two reasons h y such an approach made sense to the
Hanoi leadership, apart from the fact that no group of politicians
likes to see a process escape its control. First, this was the way
Ho trained them to behave. They had dealt with very severe
differences between themselves and the USSR and China by
keeping quiet, by maneuvering for a change, and by, in the end,
winning a practical kind of unity. In contrast, the polemical
disputes, between Moscow and Belgrade, between Beijing and
Moscow, were object lessons in the degeneration of socialist
and international relations. Everybody inside Vietnam knew
that attacks were taking place, for some mysterious reason or
other, from a regime which emptied cities, abolished money and
so forth. But officially this was not known. Therefore, neither
the western nor Third World supporters of the Indo-Chinese
liberation struggles knew about it, nor were there broadcasts to
the Kampuchean people appealing to them to prevent an escalat
ing war. By remaining silent Hanoi ensured that opposition to
Pol Pot remained either diplomatic or covert and conspiratorial.
No open political pressure which might have mobilized support
occurred in time.
There was, however, an additional reason for Hanoi's
reticence. It was not merely a continuation of Ho Chi Minh's
policy. After the 1975 fighting there had been a lull, and the
possibility of agreement. Both the Phnom Penh leadership and
the Chinese one were extremely unstable. This instability led
them to take issue with Vietnam because in neither capital was
there a group securely based in power and sure enough of itself
to treaty with Hanoi in peace. But the factional situation meant
instability and therefore the possibility that a showdown might
be averted due to a new internal change in the neighboring
regimes. Therefore silence was golden. Hanoi probably calcu
lated that any other course would box all the Beijing factions
into a hostile attitude. The critical moment in this respect was
almost certainly Le Duan's visit to Beijing in November 1977,
the month following Pol Pot's. Apparently friendly, the day
after he arrived home in Hanoi, Beijing threatened war over the
Spratly Islands, quite directly. It was then that Hanoi must have
realized that almost all its options had been closed by Beijing.
But it had not been groundless for Hanoi to have hoped that
some sort of reconciliation could be reached, and they gave
everything to achieve this, including suffering attacks in
silence. In retrospect this was a mistake, however
But after the conflict became public knowledge, at the end
of December 1977, Hanoi issued a long and credible statement.
It invited reporters in. There was a cover story in the Far
Eastern Economic Review detailing the Kampuchean attacks on
Ha Tien. But the Western media did not attempt to portray the
facts of the case. It simply enjoyed the spectacle of two Com
munist allies fighting each other. The Vietnamese case fell by
default. After silence was broken, distortion took place in the
way the issue was covered, distortion for which the Vietnamese
cannot be held responsible.
I am not suggesting that a country threatened by fam
ine and overwhelmingly peasant, such as Vietnam,
can be close to creating open political freedom for its
working class. But it is evident, from the lack of
purges, that a type of human and collective discipline
exists within the Vietnamese CP superior to that of
The Reason
The reason for Hanoi invading, while claiming that there
was an "uprising" in Kampuchea which they were merely
supporting, is slightly different. Here too there was a successful
history of such a policy. When before 1975 the Vietnamese
troops were in Laos or in the Kampuchean sanctuaries, Hanoi
denied that this was so. Everybody knew that it was the case, yet
saying so was blatantly more false than the Vietnamese denial.
This was so because the Americans were saying it. They were
trying to suggest that the Vietnamese were "invading" their
own country, although the U. S. A .. s breach of Laotian and
Kampuchean neutrality, and its destruction of the Geneva Ac
cords was evidently the real aggression. Hence, to get excited
about Vietnamese "violations" was in practice to endorse even
greater ones. Furthermore, there were no Vietnamese troops in
Vientiane or Phnom Penh. In short, it paid Hanoi to "breach"
the sovereignty of its neighbors-with the agreement of their
Communist Parties it should be added, and in the case of
Kampuchea with the secret agreement of Sihanouk-while
denying that this was taking place.
But when the same secrecy was extended to Kampuchea
this year it boomeranged. To invade an entire country without
saying so appears incredibly sinister. The Third World countries
in particular were antagonized by the lack of an "up front"
approach, and it would have benefitted Hanoi to have been more
straightforward. Why wasn't it? First, because the Vietnamese
Communists do not accept the idea of "limited sovereignty";
they have been fighting for 30 years to obtain their own. The last
thing they would concede would be a policy in international
affairs that the Chinese might use against Vietnam. In addition,
I have the impression that they hoped other Third World coun
tries would appreciate their diplomatic denial whilst under
standing their military predicament. Third, they were unable to
prepare the world for what they were about to do, because the
element of surprise was an absolute military necessity. Had they
forewarned the Chinese, the consequences might have been
much graver. (There was an element of surprise. Western intel
ligence and probably Beijing thought that there would be a
limited invasion to the banks of the Mekong only, forcing an
evacuation of Phnom Penh, but not embracing the whole of
Kampuchea. Then, they expected the national salvation front to
recruit forces to carry on the fight. In military terms, the Viet
namese army attacked as if this was its objective, drew some of
the major Kampuchean units northwards, and then cut them off
from below, opening the road to Phnom Penh and the West.)
The Press
In retrospect, it would undoubtedly have been better if the
Vietnamese had criticized the evacuation of the cities, and the
nature of the Kampuchean regime and publicized the fighting in
1977. But currently there is no gradation between virulent
polemics and the privacy of diplomatic appeals in important
matters, between Communist countries. The right to criticize
constructively with all the implications for democracy at home,
has yet to be established in the socialist world. Partly, of course,
this is because of the absence of a press attached to proletarian
traditions but independent of the state; a socialist press, in other
words, which does not function within the constraints of state
policy. The issue is of the utmost importance in Southeast Asia,
now that there is a new set of states tied by a triangle of
friendship treaties. They must try to discover a language of
communication which satisfies cadres in all three countries.
Immediately, one can see that the presence of China, hovering
to exploit differences, will push them into covering up differ
ences which are natural, so that instead of their being resolved
and discharged, they may fester, be suppressed or find in the end
an unnatural or antagonistic expression.
Finally, it should be added that there was resistance to Pol
Pot as Hanoi claimed. I do not think that the Vietnamese would
have gone in if they had thought they might meet popular
resistance. Nor did they. There was resistance and opposition to
Pol Pot, and this has provided the basis for the rapid isolation of
the Khmer Rouge, a remarkably rapid one so far, given the great
size of the Kampuchean army, the length of time it had to
prepare and the advantages for guerrilla warfare of the Kam
puchean terrain. But it must also be remembered that the cream
of the Kampuchean Communist movement went down, in purge
after purge as they failed to unify their opposition to Pol Pot.
6. The Role of the Soviet Union
It is necessary to be balanced and exact in one's judgment
here, at a time when the West has become deranged on this
topic. First, the USSR has provided Vietnam with very great
assistance, economic and military. It has been the main force
which has prevented the isolation of the Vietnamese revolution.
Whatever criticisms might follow are secondary to this, and we
should all be very grateful for it. At the same time, the USSR has
benefited from the conflict; it has gained in leverage over China.
The two countries may negotiate with each other again, thanks
to Vietnam (and the USA's refusal to support Deng Xiaoping all
the way to Lang Son!). Soviet support has not been totally
disinterested. One clear sign of this is that there has not been
sufficient aid forthcoming for Kampuchea. 1 have the impres
sion that the Vietnamese have not allowed the USSR to set up
shop there on a large scale, because Hanoi wants to reach a
settlement with China, and obviously the shape of Kampuchean
politics would be important in this. Without a political quid pro
quo, it may be (I emphasize this is not well documented) that the
Soviet Union has not poured in the badly needed aid-dis
interested aid that the people there must obtain, and which
would win the USSR great appreciation but not more leverage
over Beijing, and might even diminish its leverage over Hanoi.
Photographs of Kampuchea are by Marita Wikander, Stockholm, Sweden.
The critical question to ask these days is what is Vietnam's view
of the USSR? There is no doubt that Hanoi feels that the Chinese
are pushing it into reliance on Moscow. The Vietnamese fought
the war against China with three objectives in mind. In order of
priority they were, first, to pin down the Chinese forces and
prevent them from gaining a military success.-an objective
which was achieved. Second, to retain their position in Kam
puchea and not be deflected from it by the Chinese intrusion
in which they also were successful. Third, they wanted to keep
Soviet involvement to a minimum. Here, they were relatively
successful. (It seems pretty certain that there were direct bilat
eral negotiations over Vietnam between Moscow and Beijing,
which Hanoi of course did not want.) One of the reasons for the
way the Vietnamese command kept its response to the Chinese
invasion at as Iowa level as possible, commensurate with
winning, was to prevent the USSR from being drawn in.
The Chinese and the United States, on the other hand, for
very different reasons, perhaps ultimately conflicting ones, both
want to polarize Vietnam into dependence on the USSR. They
want to sever its relations with other countries, and prevent all
aid from reaching it, of any sort. As I began this discussion with
a mention of Yugoslavia, perhaps I can end it with another. It
seems to me a particularly galling paradox that one of the
leading countries in the non-aligned movement should be en
dorsing a Chinese-type position and attacking Vietnam. For the
record of Hanoi is manifestly not one of inclination towards a
satellite status! A new, major set of Communist revolutions took
place in Southeast Asia, on positions of international solidarity,
multiple relations and socialist independence. How can it bene
fit the Third World to push Vietnam into a situation where
only the orthodox socialist countries support it? It is not the
Vietnamese who are ceasing to be non-aligned, it is China in
particular which is driving it towards the Soviet Union, and in
such a situation one is glad that the Soviet Union is there. But in
addition to the Chinese, countries like Yugoslavia are appar
ently playing the same game, and preventing Vietnam from
creating its own, manifestly original and creative role, by forc
ing it into a cold war definition, simply because (and who should
be able to understand this better than the Yugoslavs?) Hanoi
refuses to subordinate itself to Beijing. Belgrade's role should
surely be to prevent further polarization, not encourage it, as it
seems to be doing at the moment.
It is understandable that socialists in Europe look upon the
USSR with suspicion, because of the invasion of Czechoslo
vakia, although today this suspicion is being exploited in a
fashion that may be unprincipled. But it is grotesque to project
this regional prespective onto the rest of the world-grotesque
because it reproduces the same kind of bureaucratic, self
-centered and defensive mentality which it is supposedly oppos
ing. It is not very difficult to see the obvious in Southeast Asia,
if one stops thinking about oneself. Vietnam represents an
original, independent and dynamic form of Communism, on the
borders of China. This is not to the liking of Beijing. The
People's Republic laid claim to Vietnam's coastal sea, such that
shipping en route to Saigon and Haiphong would have to pass
through China's territorial waters. It supported Pol Pot's unpro
voked aggression. It claimed as its citizens "one million several
hundred thousand" Chinese in Vietnam, to use its math
ematics. (One of the causes of the present state of war was
Hanoi's insistence that the ethnic Chinese were Vietnamese
citizens. Beijing's demands were such that Cholon, the Chinese
quarter of Ho-Chi-Minh-Ville [Saigon] would have become a
virtual extra-territorial concession, its property and commerce
directly protected by Beijing, under article 54 of the new Chi
nese Constitution-which was promulgated, incidently, the
same month as Hanoi legislated the nationalization of Cholon
commerce.) In addition to this astonishing set of political de
mands, Beijing also represented a less democratic form of
Communism. I am not suggesting that a country threatened by
famine and overwhelmingly peasant, such as Vietnam, can be
close to creating open political freedom for its working class.
But it is evident, from the lack of purges, that a type of human
and collective discipline exists within the Vietnamese CP su
perior to that of China. Thus, in Southeast Asian terms, Viet
nam is the Czechoslovakia to Beijing's Moscow. Its socialism is
more advanced, its national and political independence some
thing that socialists everywhere must do their utmost to pre
serve. The difference between the Czech and Vietnamese inva
sions is that the latter was able to fight back on all fronts, first
because of its internal strengths but also because of the vital
assiatance accorded it by the oldest socialist state. This may be a
paradox but, I repeat, unless socialists in Europe, especially the
major Communist Parties of both Eastern and Western Europe,
adjust themselves to this not very baffling tum of events, it will
be they who reproduce a crude socialist" realpolitik, " and they
who support in China a more Stalinist form of politics.
7. What is the Main Thing to be Done?
The most urgent need is for aid to be sent to Kampuchea.
Medicines, especially anti-malarial drugs; vitamins, food, and
more food; cooking utensils of all sorts-a few hundred thou
sand pots and pans; ploughs and basic farming equipment. The
socialist states which may be poor but are not without some
resources-Angola, Cuba, Ethiopia, Mozambique-should be
doing everything they can. In the long run it will help them. The
population of Kampuchea, now gravely diminished, needs sim
ple assistance delivered fast, without political strings. Aid such
as this will not only help Kampucheans who have suffered
unimaginably over the past few years; it will also help the
peoples of Indo-China to breathe and get some respite from the
pressures bearing down upon them.
In Matters of War and Socialism, Anthony Barnett
Would Shame and Honor Kampuchea Too Much
by Laura Summers
In an article on "Inter-Communist Conflicts and Viet
nam" published in the current issue of Marxism Today, I An
thony Barnett attempts to put the wars in Southeast Asia into
historical and socialist perspective. He begins by stressing the
already existing pattern of conflict in the socialist world. He
notes in particular, the history of differences between neighbor
ing communist states, the division of Marxist-Leninist move
ments resulting from the Sino-Soviet split and the sustained
efforts of imperialist powers to exploit and to deepen these
conflicts. The same conflicts, he argues, now find expression in
Southeast Asia. In fact, the recent successful completion of the
V ietnamese revolutionary war and the rise of other communist
governments in China's hinterland might be promoting a trilat
eral conflict situation of a type already observed elsewhere.
After the second World War, the indigenous, self-sustaining
communist revolution in Yugoslavia successfully resisted ef
forts made by the older, larger communist power, the USSR, to
force it to join its Eastern European bloc. Part of the Soviet
pressure took the form of aggravating difficult bilateral relations
between Yugoslavia and its neighbor Albania. The pattern of
aspirations and hostilities in today's Southeast Asia is not,
Anthony asserts, appreciably different:
... the primary contradiction is that between Vietnam and
China just as it was between Yugoslavia and the USSR,
whilst the conflict between the two smaller states is secon
dary to the major dispute. In both cases, attempts by the
'middle power' to conduct proper relations with its smaller
neighbour were ruined by the deliberate actions ofthe 'great
Assuming the analogy to be appropriate, it becomes neces
sary to resolve the question of why the inter-communist con
flicts in Asia led to warfare when the European conflicts were
resolved by other means. On this critical issue,Anthony is
categorical. He writes: "In a phrase, because Kampuchea
attacked Vietnam. There is absolutely no doubt about this
point". The evidence he presents rests partly on the judgment of
American speialists "uniformly hostile to Vietnam" who
would cast Vietnam in the role of "imperialist power" if they
could. Moreover, these specialists
.. have access to US intelligence, and in writing for schol
arly journals need to inform their readers of the main ele
mentary facts whatever gloss they may put on them. And in
this context, if not in the "serious press", it is recognized
that Kampuchea attacked Vietnam.
There is no further reference to the apparently different and
possibly important perspective of the provocatively designated
, 'serious press. " In addition, no mention is made of the fact that
the specialists alluded to, and those named, are uniformly hos
tile to Kampuchea, too. 2
The perspective of the "serious press" or of American
specialists who are not particularly hostile to Vietnam or Kam
puchea isn't significant in Anthony's analysis in part because he
believes the Kampuchean government virtually concedes the
point that its army attacked first. He cites the Black Paper
published in Phnom Penh last year as dating the beginning of
Vietnamese aggression from December 1977.
This document
is said to be more authoritative than other Kampuchean govern
ment statements putting the date of aggression at September
1977 because it claims to be a detailed history of Vietnam's
aggression against Kampuchea and because Premier Pol Pot
himself is alleged to have had a hand in its preparation. The nub
of Anthony's argument, however, rests on his belief that the
Kampucheans don't accuse the Vietnamese of attacking them
before December 1977 (or maybe September 1977). Since eve
rybody knows there was a lot of fighting in frontier areas from at
least April of that year, he concludes that by their silence the
Kampucheans inadvertently confess the truth, that is, their
guilt. He concludes: "It was therefore in response to major acts
of aggression... that the Vietnamese finally replied in force."
The Vietnamese and Anthony Barnett would have us
believe that the large scale assaults by the Vietnamese army on
their much smaller neighbor and their current occupation of
most of Kampuchea are defensive, necessary acts rather than
aggressive and arbitrary ones. It is not Kampuchea that is being
attacked or aggressed; China is being checkmated. Responsibil
ity for the sacrifice of Kampuchean (and Vietnamese) life and
for the martial subjection of the autonomous and self-sustaining
Democratic Kampuchean revolution is displaced first of all in
the direction of China and then onto the victims themselves, the
Kampuchean revolutionaries who were so foolish as to play
China's (rather than Vietnam's) game. Such a discussion ofwhy
Democratic Kampuchea and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
are at war is profoundly machiavellian and profoundly mis
taken. Leaving China out of the discussion for a while, I wish to
retrace the argument.
Anthony is correct in reporting that there were two major
waves of fighting between Kampuchea and Vietnam preceding
Vietnam's occupation. The first clashes occurred on or near
off-shore islands immediately following the American defeats
in 1975. The second wave confrontations were land battles that
gathered momentum during 1977. Leaving aside the question of
who took whose island first in 1975-the Kampucheans accus
ing the Vietnamese of starting the trouble by taking possession
of Koh Krachak Ses and later of Koh Way; the Vietnamese
accusing the Kampucheans of starting it by seizing Tho Chu
island (an accusation reported as fact by Anthony Bamett)-it
seems important to remember that these first clashes came in the
immediate throes of victory in the neighboring revolutionary
states and before peace, in any sense, was established in either
of them. Moreover, the incidents prompted immediate negotia
tions between the two states and the two parties.
From the beginning of negotiations, the Kampuchean gov
ernment aimed for a settlement based on concepts of full sov
ereignty, economic autonomy and territorial integrity within the
frontiers left in place by the French colonialists in 1949 and in
1954. These were in fact requirements of their domestic revo
lutionary strategy. It would not have been possible to radically
restructure the existing relations of production within Kampu
chean society or to change a public consciousness of deference
and dependence born of centuries of aristocratic rule, vassalage
and economic underdevelopment (by more advanced econ
omies such as Vietnam's) if borders with other'states and so
cieties were not in some measure sealed.
The Kampucheans
sought guarantees from the Vietnamese that they would abide
by pledges made in the 1960s to respect Kampuchea's terri
torial integrity. Moreover, Kampuchea believed such a demand
to be just and reasonable. The Kampucheans felt the existing
frontiers were already so unfavorable to them as to satisfy the
needs of the historically expansionist Vietnamese civilization.
To drive home the point, they made it clear that they would not
demand the return of any territory lost before 1954 (namely
Kampuchea Krom or most of southern Vietnam from Saigon
southwards) or any Vietnamese territory recognized as such
from that time. In pressing their view, they reminded their
people and international opinion of what they believed to be
unforgettably "on account." The Democratic Kampuchean
government position on the "lost territories" and its renuncia
tion of any claims to Vietnamese territory were systematically
distorted in Vietnamese propaganda from 1978. The Socialist
Republic of Vietnam [SRV] claimed that Kampuchean soldiers
attacking inside Vietnam left behind leaflets laying claims to
territory up to Saigon. They also broadcast some "confessions"
of prisoners of war who claimed to have been instructed to
retake Kampuchea Krom by force of arms.
The Vietnamese stance in the 1975-76 negotiations re
flected a socialist perspective quite different from Kam
puchea's. It was also more orthodox and more readily under
standable by outside observers of the conflict. The SRV took the
view that the off-shore demarcation line between the two states
was neither a true international boundary nor consistent with
recent international laws of the sea. These laws, strictly applied
without attention to the history of the region and the rationale for
the existing frontier, would have justified a shift of the line in
Vietnam's favor. The Kampucheans were alarmed by the pros
pect due to their preoccupation with obtaining recognition of
their sovereignty and autonomy. The Vietnamese, being equal
ly preoccupied with national security and the possibility of oil
wealth in this and adjacent sea areas, might have been ac
comodating if it had not been for more serious problems on the
land frontier. There, too, Vietnam's case seems to have rested
on different principles of law and more immediate material
needs than those put forward by the Kampucheans. It seems
clear, in spite of limited documentation on this point, that
Vietnam wanted to establish the rights to property of wartime
Vietnamese settlers in the frontier zones. The Kampucheans
The media image of Kampuchea as the most radical,
heretical and murderous of socialisms probably be
deviUed Vietnam's foreign policy thinkingand senseof
socialist and national superiority as much as the exam
ple of Laos and past bitter encounters with VCP
haunted the Kampuchean view ofVietnam. The inter
national context encouraged the heavy-handedness ex
pressed without guile by the Thai Prime Minister. By
1978, Vietnam took the bait. It exploited the Western
media image of Kampuchea to justify its armed and
political intervention in the internal affairs of its
neighboring communist state in a manner suggesting
nothing more or less than expediency.
regarded these settlers as illegal squatters. They believed the
Vietnamese government was responsible for disbanding the
settlements as a result of wartime pledges to do exactly that.
In these circumstances, it is not surprising that negotiations
between the two states broke down in 1976. All the Kamp
ucheans were willing to offer the Vietnamese was a treaty of
friendship and non-aggression. The Vietnamese were under
standably, from their conventional international socialist per
spective, annoyed about the implicit suggestion of aggressive
intent. But their longterm vision of the Indochina region as one
of peace and cooperation (in which they as the largest national
unit and leading economic component would play the dominant
role) was equally unacceptable to the Kampucheans who saw in
demands for a border of peace and special friendship (and
trade?) the revival of the old Comintern-promoted scheme for an
Indochinese Communist Federation. Rather than "special re
lations," the Kampucheans sought "normal" state-to-state re
lations. The visions of the two belligerents were sufficiently
opposed and fixed as to render an immediate settlement or
compromise virtually impossible.
The Kampucheans also had
a clear object lesson before them in the case of Laos, another
neighboring communist state sharing a frontier with Vietnam.
Vietnam's military bases and activities in that country, its deep
involvement in all major aspects of reconstruction and develop
ment there and the conspicuous loyalty of the Lao People's
Revolutionary Party, sponsored from its creation by the VCP, to
the Vietnamese revolution could not have reassured the govern
ment in Phnom Penh of Hanoi's readiness to stand back and to
allow the Kampuchean comrades to develop their own revolu
tion economy in a wholly independent manner. 7
The huge differences in the historical and legal concerns
dividing the two sides in negotiations obscure the fact that little
territory along their shared frontier is actually disputed, espec
ially on the land frontier. The Vietnamese estimated disputed
territory to be no more than 65-70 square kilometers in conver
sations with the Swedish Foreign Minister in 1977. The problem
and the urgency of some sort of agreement on the status of the
border comes from the fact that it is poorly demarcated in many
regions, including some densely populated ones. Moreover, the
Wars are not only started, they are waged. They are
indicative of deep political conflict. In the absence of
resolution by other means such conflicts find martial
expression. In this particular war, the larger state,
Vietnam, had two undoubted tactical advantages:
power of inertia and power of escalation. For these
reasons, to focus a discussion of why war exists in
Indochina today around the problem of who attacked
whom first is not only to oversimplify the problem but
to misrepresent the terms of warfare.
highland stretches of the frontier are centuries-old sheltering
areas for a variety of dissidents who traditionally resist govern
ment from Phnom Penh, Saigon or Hanoi. Predictably, counter
revolutionary strongholds on both sides of the frontier were
reinforced after April 1975. Among the dissidents were mem
bers of national minorities from both countries who rejected the
policies toward minorities adapted by Phnom Penh and Hanoi.
Kampuchean forces were possibly the first to cross the land
frontier in hot pursuit of their dissidents. 8 The New York Times
reported a Vietnamese raid inside Kampuchea on 8 May 1977 as
well as other clashes over the administration of Khmer settle
ments disputed territory, that is, just inside what the Vietnamese
considered to be theirs. 9 Other sites of conflict were Vietnamese
settlements inside Kampuchea in the former "sanctuary" areas.
Vietnam's refusal to evacuate wartime base area settlements
provoked major Kampuchean attacks on them in the summer of
1977. The Vietnamese dispatched 3 divisions from highland
bases in Laos to defend the settlements. \0 These incidents were
reported in the press before September 1977, and involved
heavy ground fighting on both sides of the border and use of air
power by both sides. The press reports often cited US intelli
gence sources. Thailand's military leader was the most confi
dent that the raids were largely "Cambodian" -initiated; he
spoke of mounting a Thai "counter-attack." II His sabre
rattling aroused little concern at the time because Kampuchea
was by then, by all but the "serious press," relegated to a
mythical "Year Zero." This was certainly an important vari
able in Vietnam's calculations. The SRV was extremely con
cerned at that moment to restore diplomatic relations with the
United States whose media were exploiting features of the
Kampuchean revolution in a barely disguised effort to convey
the idea that US military assaults had not been so criminal
after all and to embarrass the name of socialism everywhere. 12
The media image of Kampuchea as the most radical, heretical
and murderous of socialisms probably bedevilled Vietnam's
foreign policy thinking and sense of socialist and national super
iority as much as the example of Laos and past bitter encounters
with VCP haunted the Kampuchean view of Vietnam. The
international context encouraged the heavy-handedness ex
pressed without guile by the Thai Prime Minister. By 1978,
Vietnam took the bait. It exploited the Western media image of
Kampuchea to justify its armed and political intervention in the
internal affairs of its neighboring communist state in a manner
suggesting nothing more or less than expediency.
But what does Anthony Barnett write of these develop
ments? First, it is important to notice that he writes nothing at all
about the differences in negotiating positions adopted by the two
sides after the first wave of fighting in 1975. Kampuchean
aspirations, in particular, like the perspective of the "serious
press" and the opinions of American specialists who are not
particularly hostile to Vietnam or Kampuchea, are omitted
from his analysis altogether. Later in the article, he refers
approvingly to Vietnam's' 'offer of a permanent peace" so as to
establish that "Vietnam's priority was a peaceful border" and
to suggest that Kampuchea's refusal, and China's refusal to
encourage the sovereign state of Kampuchea to settle on Viet
nam's terms, betrayed unpeaceful moti ves. No mention is made
of a May 1978 Kampuchean proposal for a ceasefire (summarily
rejected by the Vietnamese). Moreover, having ignored the
terms of reference in the earlier talks and Kampuchea's point of
view altogether, Anthony fails to appreciate that Vietnam's
"offer" was provocative. If Vietnam's words and formulas,
including international supervision of the frontier, seem peace
ful enough in the abstract, they amounted to an imperial breach
of sovereignty which the Vietnamese were probably confident
the Kampucheans would reject. Vietnam's good will in this in
stance is not scrutinized because Anthony believes he has al
ready established Kampuchea's bad faith. But does he?
In reporting the gradual deterioration of relations in 1976
and 1977 he writes:
... We know there was heavy fighting by the summer of
1977 but the Kampucheans have never charged the Viet
namese with attacking their countrv between 1976 and Sep
tember 1977. Therefore, the hostilities during the spring and
summer of 1977 must have been Kampuchean-initiated. We
also know that there was heavy fighting in September which
led to a Vietnamese counter-attack in December. Hanoi does
not acknowledge the latter. but nor does it deny the fact.
which is regarded as common knowledge. (Emphasis added)
These remarks constitute the core of his argument that Kam
puchea started the war and even (indirectly) admits to it. But
these observations are incorrect and reflect such tortuous logic
that it is necessary to examine them line by line.
To begin, it is simply untrue that the Kampucheans "have
never charged the Vietnamese with attacking their country be
tween 1976 and September 1977"; and it is manichean in the
extreme to conclude: "Therefore, the hostilities during the
spring and summer of 1977 must have been Kampuchean in
itiated. " Silence, if it had indeed existed is here construed as
duplicity or gUilt and nothing else, such as diplomatic circum
spection. One ~ x a m p l e of the Kampuchean charges appears in
the document announcing the suspension of diplomatic rela
tions, the same document in which Anthony found no reference
to Vietnamese attacks before September 1977. It contains these
. . . Immediately after the liberation of Kampuchea, the
Vietnamese army aggressed the island ofKoh Way belonging
to Kampuchea and. . . it has increasingly hurled defiance at
Kampuchea in order to annex it. . . with nibbles of some
centimeters of territory to encroachments on many dozen
kilometers. It has fired with machine-guns, shelled Demo
cratic Kampuchea. along the frontiers. It has occupied the
territory of Kampuchea and unscrupulously installed itself
on many places in the provinces of Rattanakiri and Mon
dulkiri, in the East and South West regions of Kam
puchea . .. all these places belong to Kampuchea and were
nothing but refuges that the Vietnamese army has asked
permission to install (in)from 1965 to 1975....
(Phnom Penh's translation)
In additional remarks made when this document was read out to
the Kampuchean pUblic, the President of Democratic Kam
puchea clarified that attacks had occurred in 1976 and 1977
without specifying the months in which the encounters took
place. The tenor of his remarks suggests the Kampucheans
regarded the encounters up to September 1977 as sustained
rather than major battling.
From January 1978, Radio Democratic Kampuchea and
Phnom Penh's Press Department broadcast almost daily accusa
tions of Vietnamese aggressiveness in 1976 and 1977. Here is
an example excerpted from the alleged confession of a captured
Vietnamese prisoner of war:
.. .In February 1976, my unit was sent to reinforce Division 7
in Peam (Hatien).
From February to June 1976 .. . (we) attacked and in
vaded Kampuchea's territory twice.
The first time, my unit penetrated /0 kilometers in the
direction of Takeo City. But I met with a violent counter
attack from the infantry and heavy artillery of the Kam
puchean army and was forced to pull back. We had52 killed,
86 wounded and left 9 bodies on the battlefield. The fighting
lasted 6 days.
The second time, my unit attacked 12 kilometers inside
Takeo province (Kampuchea). But we were forced to pull
back by a violent assault from the Kampuchean army, in
fantry and artillery. We had 63 killed. 114 wounded and left
14 bodies on the battlefield. Thisfighting lasted 8 days.
In August 1976 ... lnFebruary 1977 ... lnAugust 1977.
(Phnom Penh' s translation. my editing)
Clashes generally labelled "continuous Vietnamese
attacks" and Vietnamese "acts of sabotage" in 1976 and the
first half of 1977, apparently the work of local Vietnamese
militia and provincial anned forces, are distinguished from the
large scale assaults that began in September 1977 and which led
to the invasion by regular Vietnamese anny forces in December
1977. At the time, the Kampucheans seemed puzzled by Viet
nam's mid-1977 shift in military strategy. By February 1978,
they have decided:
... the present conflict between Kampuchea and Vietnam is
not an ordinary border conflict, but a conflict between the
position of safeguarding and defending independence,
sovereignty, territorial integrity, national honour and dig
nity, and the position ofaggression, annexation, swallowing
of other's territories, the position of despising the smaller
countries. It is in fact the conflict between the position of
independence, sovereignty and self-reliance, and the posi
tion of subordination, "inter-independence" and "limited
sovereignty. ,,14
(Phnom Penh's translation, my editing)
By April 1978, Kampucheans knew without a doubt that
they were being threatened with annexation. In making their
"offer of a pennanent peace" in that month, the Vietnamese
ridiculed the apparent (though not tlecessarily real) inconsisten
cies in Democratic Kampucheas's official statements pointing
out that some Kampuchean documents stressed that there was a
serious border conflict between the two countries while others
insisted that the frontier between the two states was clearly
established and internationally recognized. Such vague fonnu
lations proved, Vietnam charged, that KaIl).puchea was only out
to slander Vietnam.
Any uncertainty about Vietnam's intentions to settle the
dispute seems to have been cast aside. This SRV "offer of a
pennanent peace" on tenns probably unacceptable to the
Democratic Kampuchean government coincided with the first
Vietnamese radio broadcasts supporting an indigenous insurrec
tion inside Kampuchea. Vietnamese belligerence was also
evident in renewed large scale military invasions using unpre
cedented air power along three fronts on the frontier. Pol Pot
immediately convened a press conference to announce that the
Vietnamese were proposing to abolish frontiers altogether, that
the war was a total war of annexation and aggression and not a
border conflict at all. 15 By the time the Black Paper is published
fi ve months later, Kampuchean perceptions of their situation are
rooted in the centuries-long, seemingly inexorable expansion
ism of Vietnamese civilisation. Events leading up to the
December 1977 invasion have faded in significance next to the
the Vietnamese war of aggression and annexation said to have
started then. The Vietnamese are said to be using "border
conflict" as a pretext for their undeclared war of annexation.
Thus, if Anthony Barnett is correct in writing that the summary
of this avowed history of Vietnam's acts of aggression and
annexation makes no reference to Vietnamese attacks before the
invasion of December 1977, for reasons which should now be
obvious, he is wrong to suggest that the document fails to
mention Vietnamese attacks and provocation in 1976 and 1977.
How far have we come in retracting the argument? We
agree there was heavy fighting in the summer of 1977 but it was
not all Kampuchean-initiated. Reports in the reasonably serious
press citing US intelligence sources credit Vietnam with some
of the attacking and raiding. Moreover, the Kampucheans are
not silent about this fighting. They accuse the Vietnamese of
continuous provocation. There is also evidence that the
Kampucheans perceived the fighting in 1977 as progressing
from local, small-scale encounters at the beginning of the year,
to larger-scale encounters and attacks from September, to full
scale, regular anny ground assaults in December 1977.
Retrospectively, from April 1978, and more clearly from
September 1978 when the Black Paper is issued, the December
invasion marks for them the beginning of Vietnam's undeclared
total war. About this evolution in the fighting Anthony writes,
"We... know that there was heavy fighting in September which
led to a Vietnamese counter-attack in December. Hanoi neither
acknowledges the latter, nor denies the fact, which is regarded
as common knowledge. "
Right and wrong again. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam
has admitted it began "counter-attacking" Kampuchea in Sep
tember (thus accepting some responsibility for enlarging the
conflict) and that if launched an invasion of Kampuchea in
December 1977. Note here that "invasion of Kampuchea" has
been substituted for the euphemism "counter-attack"
employed by the Vietnamese and Anthony Barnett. Euphem
isms obscure objective political realities, in this instance, the
fact that Vietnam quite brazenly invaded a country roughly 't8 its
size in population with 30-60,000 infantrymen and annoured
tank units enjoying full air and artillery support. The December
1978 invasion leading to the current military occupation of the
country employed 120,000 troops. It is not at all clear Vietnam
was "countering" assaults of comparable proporticns nor sur
prising that assaults on such a scale or the sustained military
pressure from September 1977 would generate inconsiste._'::ies,
alarm and eventually some hysterical logic in Kampuchea's
propaganda. Phnom Penh's central government bureaucracy
was, as a matter of policy, extremely limited in resources to
begin with. Note, moreover, that Hanoi's alleged failure to own
up to its military deeds-retaliatory or otherwise-does not
provoke the condemnation of duplicity earlier imputed to the
Kampucheans (thought to have been silent about the smaller,
pre-September 1977 clashes). Vietnamese silence, if not al
together golden, is condoned. The Vietnamese at least do not
insult our intelligence by denying what is impossible to cover
up so theirs is not an offense against the fund of knowledge
generated by the ordinary press. People hostile to Vietnam will
tell us the truth about what is going on (if it suits imperial
purpose). So much for Vietnam's responsibility in the matter!
But the double standard and the apology becomes worse as it is
pursued. About the 1978/79 occupation, Anthony writes "to
invade an entire country without saying so appears incredibly
sinister" but the "element of surprise was an absolute military
necessity." I dare say the unconfessed invasion not only "ap
pears" sinister; it is sinister. The failure of the Vietnamese to
mount an open, critical discussion of their policy and of the
Kampuchean Revolution-this being something more than
denouncing the leadership of the CPK as "fascist" and parrot
ing the international media campaign against the country
when most able-bodied young Vietnamese have been con
scripted to fight there is tantamount to suppression of demo
cratic politics in the service of foreign conquest. 16
But the Vietnamese have been more forthcoming, at least
with foreigners, than Anthony appears to realize. On at least one
occasion, a high level spokesman for the Hanoi government
openly discussed Vietnam's attacks against and the invasion of
Kampuchea in 1977.
Hoang Tung claims the Vietnamese
government officially authorized the invasion of December
1977 and a policy of immediate retaliation to every Kam
puchean attack in September 1977. From April 1977, when
there was heavy fighting in the Chau Doc area of Vietnam
(provoking the Vietnamese raid inside Kampuchea resulting in
80 casualties already mentioned) and until official authorization
for " counter-attacking" came in September 1977, the Viet
namese anny was said to have been "restless." There were
differences of opinion between the anny and the communist
Party about the appropriate response to the situation. The anny
apparently wanted to respond with force to every attack. This
became official policy only in September, according to Hoang
Tung who also described some of the (counter) attacks as
"relatively strong." He protested throughout the interview that
Vietnam "awaited" a negotiated solution to the conflict. Since
he had just admitted to military escalation of the fighting in a
manner consistent with what American strategists label "stra
tegic persuasion" and since Vietnam had long since recalled its
ambassador from Phnom Penh, it seems reasonable to suggest
that what the Vietnamese "awaited," what they in fact de
manded from the Kampucheans, was nothing less than sur
To prepare the international intelligence community for pos
sible repercussions from their escalation of the border fighting,
the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry began briefing resident
diplomats about the situation in October 1977.
R As the fighting
grew in scale, it was also easier for American intelligence to
glean more information from its spy satellites. Both sources of
information- Vietnamese advice and electronic snooping
were valuable additions to the hitherto sporadic bits of informa
tion gathered from villagers who left, Vietnam after fleeing
embattled zones such as Chau Doc, and from the infrequent
visitors to border areas in 1977. On the basis of these intelli
gence sources, about which there should be no mystery or
magic, a consensus slowly emerged in late 1977 that Kam
puchea was initiating most ofthe fighting.
Again, there is much more to the consensus than Anthony
reports. Here is an example that raises the essential questions:
American and Thai intelligence experts here believe that
Vietnamae forces numbering as many as 60,000 probably
control much of the Parrot's Beak ... (they) dismiss reports
that the Vietnamese ... plan to capture the Cambodian capi
tal ... Intelligence estimates of casualties, based upon satel
lite observations, are that 8,000 to 10,000 lives have been
lost in the past four months. with Cambodian casualties
outnumbering the Vietnamese by three to two.
All of these reports are based upon expert surmise.
There are few hardfacts apartfrom the knowledge that heary
fighting began between Vietnam and Cambodia in October.
It began with the Phnom Penh Government attacking
Vietnam's new "economic areas" -40 or 50 villages
established in the border areas. The Cambodians regarded
them as an infringement oftheir territory. Certainly they are
in areas where the border has not been clearly defined since
the French colonial authorities vaguely established the
frontier ...
The Vietnamese strategy appears to be to get the
Cambodians to negotiate about the border. Diplomats here
believe the Vietnamese are ready to apply enough pressure to
overthrow the regime in Phnom Penh, but they rule out any
attempt at a military takeover. 19 (emphasis added)
Notice that although the Kampucheans are said to be initiating
the attacking in this period, information based partly on what the
Vietnamese are telling the diplomatic community, hard facts are
said to be lacking. It is not certain the Kampucheans are attack
ing Vietnam or Vietnamese located in Vietnamese territory. It is
clear that the Vietnamese have established new economic zones
in areas that the Kampucheans believe to be their,s. or disputed,
which are, moreover internationally regarded as poorly demar
cated and which the Vietnamese have clearly decided they will
have. There are to be no negotiations on the matter, or, with
negotiations on their own terms, if the Kampucheans can be
compelled to accept them. Finally, diplomats are said to have
the impression that the Vietnamese are determined enough to
have their way in the matter to overthrow Kampuchea's
So did the Kampucheans start the war or not?
In my opinion, we'll never know. Moreover, it is probably
not important to know who fired the first shot. Wars are not only
started, they are waged. They are indicative of deep political
conflict. In the absence of resolution by other means such
conflicts find martial expression. In this particular war, the
larger state, Vietnam, had two undoubted tactical advantages:
power of inertia and power of escalation. For these reasons, to
focus a discussion of why war exists in Indochina today around
the problem of who attacked whom first is not only to over
simplify the problem but to misrepresent the terms of warfare.
That clashes occurred between the two neighboring states in the
aftermath of their extremely difficult liberation struggles is not
at all surprising. What is worrying and problematic is why the
two parties to the" incidents" that became total war could not
make peace in 1975 and 1976.
In laying all of the responsibility for the fighting on the
Kampucheans Anthony would shame and honor them too much.
He shames the Kampucheans by refusing to acknowledge that
they might have had legitimate territorial and other claims to
work out with the Vietnamese. He shames them again by assum
ing that they were, as Vietnam loudly proclaims, merely agents
of the Chinese. It is not at all self-evident that war between the
two neighboring smaller communist states would have been
prevented if China had suddenly vanished from the face of the
globe. In fact, relations between Democratic Kampuchea and
China revealed some normal state-to-state and party-to-party
tensions from mid- i976 through 1978. And while it is no doubt
true that the war between Kampuchea and Vietnam would have
been concluded more quickly without Chinese military support
for the smaller state, the tactical alliance between the two states
is forged, most conspicuously, only after the December 1977
Vietnamese invasion. 20
Thus, it is not at all clear that Kampuchea was playing
Albania to China's USSR. It should be more and more obvious,
however, that Le Duan is no Tito. Anthony eventually confronts
reality and judges it "paradoxical":
.. .As I began this discussion with a mention of Yugoslavia,
perhaps I can end it with another. It seems to me a particu
larly galling paradox that one of the leading countries in the
non-aligned movement should be .. .attacking Vietnam. For
the record of Hanoi is manifestly not one of inclination
towards a satellite status!
True enough, but wars have consequences whatever the
"record" or "inclination" of parties to it. This reality is con
fronted, too, and avoided:
.. . How can it benefit the Third World to push Vietnam into a
situation where only the orthodox socialist countries support
it? It is not the Vietnamese who are ceasing to be non
aligned, it is China in particular which is driving {Vietnam]
towards the Soviet Union, and in such a situation one is glad
that the Soviet Union is there.
So, Vietnam "attacked" by the Yugoslavians, "pushed"
by the Third World, "driven" by China and rescued by the
Soviet Union. It becomes harder and harder to locate the really
independent Vietnam in this conflict-ridden world but we are
quickly reassured that:
.. . in Southeast Asian terms, Vietnam is the Czechoslovakia
to Peking's Moscow. Its socialism is more advanced, its
national and political independence something that social
ists everywhere must do their utmost to preserve.
We are then alerted to a possible paradox (only one??) in this
relationship, too. The casting around for Eastern European
images becomes more and more confused, and confusing. Real
ity is still being avoided and a double standard is again being
applied. The admirable statement in support of national and
political independence is, quite naturally (paradoxically, if you
wish) similar to what Kampuchea's friends have said on its
behalf. For example, Nicolae Ceausescu, President and Party
leader of Romania on his official visit to Kampuchea last year:
For the successful development of a new socialist soci
ety it is essential to reinforce national independence and
sovereignty .. .we are of the view that relationships of a new
type, based on full equality and respect for the independence
of each nation, must be developed among socialist countries
and... serve as a model ofcooperation andfriendship among
Vietnam's willingness and determination to violate Kam
puc he an sovereignty is simply unmistakable and undeniable in
1979. Its capacity for warmaking exceeded, in this instance, its
capacity for peaceful accommodation. What, it should be
asked, would it cost the state of Vietnam to have settled the
"border war" on Kampuchea's terms? Was this possibility
even considered?
The question is sensitive because considerable care is taken
to prevent it from being raised. The Kampuchean regime, it is
implied, wasn't of the sort to be dealt with by any means but
force of arms. The Chinese, "it is clear," gave it "assurances"
and "encouraged hostilities" and this was possible because a
"war party," a group conceived to be much smaller than the
whole of the Kampuchean nation, existed in Phnom Penh. The
warrior regime was unstable, plagued by periodic coups, in
cluding "a Chinese coup of some sort" putting Pol Pot in
charge, and "Major purge followed major purge relentlessly."
The final judgment is that "The Pol Pot regime was the most
terrible to have been created in the name of socialism, and the
full record will be worse, I fear, than people now seem to
believe. "
These are strong words for a socialist. I don't know how
seriously they should be taken. The accusations are not sup
ported by an analysis of the social forces in Kampuchea which
created such a revolution or such a leadership. We have, in fact,
already observed how carefully the writer reads and interprets
documentary evidence. Moreover, the allegations are expressed
with more awe than argumentation. Whatever people might fear
or suspect, we know little about these things. It is also trans
parently obvious what function such views serve: the regime
was not one to treaty with; it was incapable of peacemaking.
These impressions and judgments are apparently based on the
consensus of opinion in the world media, excluding the serious
press-the opinions of specialists hostile to Kampuchea
Vietnamese state propaganda and other forms of hearsay. It is
difficult not to conclude that Kampuchea is a little known recep
tacle into which loose ends of the Vietnamese state' s world view
are forcibly projected. To know Kampuchea might betray too
much of the disturbing reality of Vietnam.
For their part, the leaders of the government of Democratic
Kampuchea have been vaguely forthcoming about the charges
levelled against them, admitting to "excesses" and post-war
reprisals. They continue to claim, however, that many of the
"coup" attempts and other alleged acts of sabotage are the work
ofthe Vietnamese or sometimes the work of the Vietnamese, the
CIA and the KGB. Their accusations have fueled Western
media allegations of Kampuchean xenophobia and paranoia.
Since we do not know the facts, it is hasty and manichean to say
right away that one side is being more or less honest or that
others are lying (with their silence or their cover stories),
especially as one party has also been so manifesting outtalked in
the media and outgunned in the war. Ifwe assume for a moment
that the reflections of the situation in the ordinary and quality
press are to some extent meaningful, then the Albanian example
once again comes to mind. Between 1949 and 1952, when that
country was both a closed and isolated communist state
Yugoslavia, note well, having made its peace with imperial
powers-specialists in the service of imperialism saw oppor
tunity. The American CIA and the British SIS (MI6) moved in
to subvert the Hoxha regime in the full knowledge that Albanian
authorities would not be believed ifthey cried wolf in the crisis.
Fortunately for Hoxha and historians concerned to record the
facts, whatever gloss they put on them, the British intelligence
liaison officer was Kim Philby.
If this is an instructive example of some of the interplay
between inter-communist and communist-imperialist inspired
conflicts, then whatever ill the Kampuchean leadership visited
upon themselves, others may have equal or more serious crimes
to their credit. If Vietnam was prepared to invade Kampuchea in
1977 and in 1978, what more did it attempt by way of prior
internal subversion? The KGB, it is rumored, had a good "net"
in that country, at least until 1975. Ifthe United States was bitter
in its defeat, to what lengths might it have gone to make the
communist government in Kampuchea appear more violent in
peacetime than its lTIlled forces had been during the war?
Moreover, Kampuchea's strategic proximity to Thailand, a
country where the US government believes it has vital interests
to protect, would only have added to temptations to meddle. The
Thai Prime Minister's attitude in 1977 has already been noted.
In the absence of informed defectors from the services of
any of the contending states, we may never know the answers to
these questions. Clearly though, the approaches to reality lie in a
rigorous examination of the terms of reference employed by
Vietnam and Kampuchea as they set out to negotiate their
original border "incidents" and general policy differences.
This must be accompanied by a rigorous, objective examination
of the international alliance position of each belligerent in each
year since 1975. It is not good enough to assume one side is
manipulated while the other is rescued. The role played by the
Western media at a time when Vietnam was anxious to restore
diplomatic and commercial ties with the West and the West was
anxious to hamper the success of the Indochinese revolutions
should not be underestimated. The spectacle of Vietnamese
officials supporting a 1978 forum in Norway on alleged
atrocities committed by Democratic Kampuchean authorities
mounted in part by conservative Scandinavian political parties
and the American Reader's Digest is a particularly graphic
illustration of the diverse and conflicting pressures affecting
Vietnamese policies. It is difficult not to see imperial "divide
and rule" obstructing peace between the warring communist
Carefully executed, the trek through such difficult terrain
should instruct political activists in what needs to be done in the
interests of peace and human well-being. Anthony Bamett cor
rectly identifies the need to give material and poltical support to
the Kampuchean people. They are the most seriously affected
victims of the "excesses" oftwo governments. Political obsta
cles to humanitarian aid, especially in the United States, and
efforts by the Heng Samrin regime to link diplomatic recogni
tion to such aid must be overcome. But humanitarian aid is only
a temporary measure.
The single most critical element in the restoration and
preservation of peace in Asia is without doubt the normalization
of diplomatic and commercial relations between the United
States and all three countries in Indochina. Until the Sino-Soviet
conflict can be alleviated or resolved, American recognition and
aid to the states of Indochina are the only realistic means of
reducing the effects of this major inter-communist cold war on
Southeast Asian politics. One of the most disquieting features of
Anthony's analysis is his failure to note this. It results from a
close defense of the Vietnamese state and its rationale for the
occupation of Kampuchea at a time when the interests of the
Vietnamese state and the Vietnamese revolutionary movement
might be diverging rapidly. Support of the official Vietnamese
propaganda line on Kampuchea leads him to reject conflicting
analyses of the situation appearing in the "quality press" pro
duced primarily by the American anti-war movement. Special
ists who are hostile to Vietnam and Kampuchea as well as the
ordinary media produce much more that is compatible with
official Vietnamese propaganda. This should be disturbing and
revealing for a prominent representative of the British new left,
but it seems not to be. His refusal of solidarity with the Ameri
can new left, his reluctance to discuss its critical view of Viet
nam, US foreign policy and the media, prevent him from
appreciating the absolute necessity of a complete end to Ameri
ca's (cold) war on Indochina. If he identifies, in theory, the
danger of imperial interference in inter-communist conflicts, he
fails, in practice, to see its consequences.
The final task confronting anti-war activists should be the
most obvious (though I fear, given the extraordinary confusion
and partisanship alternately paralysing or dividing international
opinion, it isn't). But if we are to lend meaningful support to the
Kampuchean people and the Vietnamese people who pay the
price for the undemocratic, martial adventures of their states as
well as part of the high human cost of the criminal invasion to
punish Vietnam launched by the Chinese authorities, then, it
should be apparent that peace requires the withdrawal of the
Vietnamese army from Kampuchea. To express disapproval of
Vietnam's Kampuchea policy, to discuss it critically, is not to
"attack" Vietnam oTto be "hostile" to the Vietnamese revolu
tion. To the contrary, it is perhaps the best way to defend the
visions of liberation from colonial tyranny and imperial subjec
tion which inspired the Vietnamese revolution from its ori
gins-visions which seem moreover worthy of preservation. In
denying rights of sovereignty and independence to the Kam
puchean nation, the Vietnamese state has simply lost its
way. In defense of peace between the Kampuchea
and Vietnamese peoples, democrats everywhere are obliged to
say so. *
I. A. Barnett, .. Inter-Communist Contlicts and Vietnam," Marxism
Today (London) Vol. 23, No.8 (August [979) pp. 244-252.
2. "Cambodia" (Cambodge in French) is the imperfect imperial render
ing of Kambuja or Kampuchea. "Cambodian" communists and most patriots
use the national term, Kampuchea, to designate their country. The Pol Pot
regime is Democratic Kampuchea; the Heng Sarnrin regime is the People's
Republic of Kampuchea.
3. The English language translation of the Black Paper is available from
the group of Khmer Residents in America for US $2.95. Their address is G. K.
RAM; P.O. Box 5857; Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10017; USA.
4. In these remarks, I merely state the Democratic Kampuchean govern
ment's position as [ understand it. Whether or not such a policy was either
prudent or desirable is another matter. For insight into the development strategy,
see the early work of Khieu Samphan, Cambodia's Economy and Industrial
Development (Ithaca: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 1979).
5. Texts of the wartime Vietnamese declarations of recognition of Kam
puchea's territorial integrity as well as further discussion of the contlict appear
in "The Revolution in Kampuchea," a collection of papers and documents
edited by the Kampuchean Friendship Associations of Sweden and Norway.
Single copies are available on request from the Sweden-Kampuchea Friendship
Association; Herkulesgatan II; 11152 Stockholm. Also see the Bulletin of
Concerned Asian Scholars, Vol. II, No. I, Jan.-Mar., 1979, Pg. 24 t{)r a
6. This is argued in more detail in Stephen R. Heder's important "Ori
gins of the Contlict," Southeast Asia Chronicle No. 65 (September-October
1979) pp. 3-1!!; or in his "Kampuchea's Armed Struggle; The Origins of an
Independent Revolution" in the Bulletin ofConcerned Asian Scholars, Vol. II,
No. I, Jan.-Mar.. 1979, pp. 2-23. Copies of the Chronicle are available from
the Southeast Asia Resource Center, P.O. Box 4000-0, Berkeley, CA 94704,
USA tor US $1.25.
7. See my chapters on Democratic Kampuchea and the Lao People's
Democratic Republic in Marxist Governments: A World Survey Edited by
Bogdan Szajkowski. London: Macmillan.forthcoming.
g. Since the Vietnamese side of the frontier is generally more heavily
populated and patrolled, the historical record on this and other points may renect
only the greater administrative capacity of Vietnam. See the SRV. Kampuchea
Dossier. Vol. II, Hanoi, 1978. p. 11.
9. New York Times, 9 August 1977; See also. Far Eastern Economic
Review, 19 August 1977
The Times report says the Vietnamese raid into Kampuchea was provoked
by "Cambodian or Vietnamese rebels operating from bases in Cambodia" and
that these had been harassing the towns of Chau Doc and Ha Tien. lt notes that
the area is a traditional stronghold for dissidents currently sheltering "anti
Communi&t groups of former Saigon Government soldiers and militant mem
bers of the Hoa Hao sect. . presumed to enjoy the toleration of the Cambodian
Government or perhaps its active support." Citing eyewitness refugee accounts,
the report states that in early May, two mortar shells hit Chau Doc town killing 9
people. At about the same time, unidentified forces crossed from Cambodia and
burned some houses on the border. Shelling continued for several days and an
artillery position near Chau Doc was subsequently attacked "apparently by
Vietnamese rebe[s." The Vietnamese raid 3 miles into Kampuchea occurred
four days later and resulted in 80 casualties. Shell fire from Kampuchea resumed
on May 16 and 17 with Vietnamese batteries returning fue. Chau Doc and Ha
Tien were evacuated. Kampuchean troops are said to have captured a number of
villages in the disputed area northwest of Ha Tien, in early June.
10. Christian Science Monitor 17 August 1977. These attacks by the
Kampucheans inside their own territory are also reported by them in the Black
Paper, p. 74.
II. Washington Post, 7 August 1977.
12. On the role of the media in contemporary world politics, see Noam
Chomsky and Edward Herman, The Political Economy ofHuman Rights, Vol. I
and 2. Nottingham: Spokesman, and Boston: South End Press, 1979. For a
particular case, see Torben Retboll, "Kampuchea and the Reader's Digest,"
Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. Vol. II, No.3, July-Sept., 1979, pp.
13. Democratic Kampuchea, "Evidences [sic] of the Vietnamese Aggres
sion Against Democratic Kampuchea" Phnom Penh, February 1978. pp. H-1.
14. Ibid. p. iii.
15. That the Vietnamese"offer ofa permanent peace" was delivered with
considerable military punch was widely reported at the time. For some exam
ples, see Christian Science Monitor, 6 April 1978; Washington Post, 8 April
1978 and the Los Angeles Times, 9 April, Ij April and 18 April 1979. These
reports cite US intelligence, well-informed diplomats or expert analysts.
16. Vietnamese restrictions of inquiry and discussion apply more broadly.
See the friendly, thoughtful remarks of David Marr, "The State of the Social
Sciences in Vietnam," Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Vol. 10, NO.4
(Oct.-Dec. 1978) pp. 70-77.
17. Far Eastern Economic Review, 21 April 1978.
18. Far Eastern Economic Review, 13 January 1978.
19. Times (London), 5 January 1978.
20. In the interests of brevity, China's role in the Kampuchea-Vietnam
war will not be treated in detail. These remarks are made to suggest that
whatever China desired to do in the situation, what it succeeded in doing, might
be altogether different. Whatever the Vietnamese feared the Chinese might be
doing, needs to be scrutinized against the available facts rather than accepted as
history. Finally the sequence of events in international alliance formation must
be carefully established. There is evidence to suggest that Vietnam perceived
Kampuchea as China's "second front" only in early 1979, that is, atier the
invasion of December 1977. An interesting divergence in Anthony's view of
China's role and the view in the quality press is his assumption that the
international alliance in some sense caused the war when it is very likely that it
was forged in it or by it. For some discussion of these points, see Lowell Finley,
"Raising the Stakes" Southeast Asia Chronicle, No. 64 (already cited in Note
6), and Elizabeth Becker, "The Chinese Invasion of Vietnam: Changing
Alliances" Indochina Issues, No. I (March 1979), a publication of the centre
for International Policy; 120 Maryland Avenue, NE; Washington, DC 20002;
USA. Karl Jackson, one of the US specialists cited approvingly by Anthony
Barnett, comments on cold relations between the Chinese and Kampucheans in
19n in his "Cambodia 1978; War Pillage and Purge in Democratic Kam
puchea," Asiall Survey, Vol. 19, No. I (January 1979). His contribution
to the concensus hostile to Kampuchea in the US are assessed in the Chomsky
and Herman study cited in Note 12.
21. "Visite officielle du camarade Nicolae Ceausescu," Paris: Comite
des Patriotes due Kampuchea Democratique en France. 1978. pp. 21-22.
Vietnam and the Governments
and People of Kampuchea
by Ben Kiernan
I have been asked by the editors to explain why I have
"changed my mind" and become critical ofKampuchea.
As can be seen from a comparison with what is now known
about recent Kampuchean history and my article' 'Social Cohe
sion in Revolutionary Cambodia" (Australian Outlook, Dec.
1976), I was late in realizing the extent of the tragedy in
Kampuchea after 1975 and Pol Pot's responsibility for it. It is
quite clear that I was wrong about an important aspect of
Kampuchean communism: the brutal authoritarian trend within
the revolutionary movement after 1973 was not simply a grass
roots reaction, and expression ofpopular outrage at the killing
and destruction ofthe countryside by US bombs, although that
helped it along dedsively. There can be no doubting that the
evidence also points clearly to a systematic use of violence
against the population by that chauvinist section of the revo
lutionary movement that was led by Pol Pot. In my opinion this
violence was employed in the service ofa nationalist revivalism
that had little concern for the living conditions of the Khmer
people, or with the humanitarian socialist ideals that had in
spired the broader Kampuchean revolutionary movement.
One notable error I made was to regard Kampuchean
ultra-nationalist sentiment as somehow progressive, simply be
cause it was understandable in the light ofthe damage done to
the country by foreigners. I quoted a junior official of the Lon
Nol government who had said that he would be prepared to
accept a communist government in Kampuchea provided it was
"really independent" and.that "domination by the Vietnamese,
whether communist or not, could only bring us misery." This
statement has been invalidated by history: the" 'really indepen
dent" (although propped up by Chinese military aid) Pol Pot
group sowed unprecedented misery in Kampuchea, leading to
the death ofa huge section ofthe population andforcing the rest
to submit to enormous sacrifices in the name of building a
powerful nation. And, subsequently, what the official would no
doubt have called' 'Vietnamese domination" since January
1979 has been generally welcomed by the Kampuchean people.
And now the defeated remnants of the Pol Pot groups are
massacring large numbers oifKampuchean villagers who don't
want to support the racist crusade against the Vietnamese
instituted by Pol Pot (who in Paris in 1952 had signed his
handwritten contributions to a Khmer student magazine as the
"Original Khmer"). *Clearly, the' 'nationalism" expressed by
the official I quoted is not the force most aligned with the
interests ofthe people in this tragic equation.
Further, I was too willing to believe that informationfrom
the most important sources about post-1975 Kampuchea, the
refugees and the government radio, could be reconciled. I was
unprepared for the vastness of the gulf that came to separate
them, and for the propaganda emanating from Phnom Penh
during those years, the cynicism of which was eventually ex
posed by discussions I had with many working class Kampu
cheans who had lived under that government and had no reason
to invent stories.
Also, the many proven falsehoods spread in the Western
Press led to preoccupation with the correction ofspecific lies or
distortions (fake atrocity photographs, fake interview, etc.). **
While such correction is important to anyone sorting through
the evidence, it does not by itself establish the truth about the
actual situation in Kampuchea. As George Orwell pointed out
in reference to atrocity stories about the Spanish Civil War,
those whose interests are against social change will always
spread disinformation about revolutions; but these stories are
irrelevant to the truth, neither its identity nor its opposite. It is
up to those interested in the truth to establish it positively.
The most reliable source about the plight of the vast,
predominantly peasant, working class in Kampuchea in 1975-6
was working class refugees, carefully questioned in a demo
cratic atmosphere. But relatively few of these people fled their
country in 1975-6, and they mostly came from one specific
region. Further, Thai officials allowed only pro-Western re
searchers to interview refugees systematically and without the
constraining presence of authorities, and these people paid
little or no attention to gathering evidence from peasants or
workers. So it was difficult for a non-specialist, or even a
*Or "khmae daem"; see Khemara Niset. no. 14, August 1952.
**See, for example, Torben Retboll, "Kampuchea and the Reader's
Digest" in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars., Vol. II. No.3 (July
Sept,1979lpp22-27. 19
specialist lacking resources and suitable political connections,
to track the real direction ofthe Kampuchean revolution as far
as the vast majority ofthe country's people were concerned.
Finally, in 1975-6 the direction to be taken by the Kampu
chean revolution had not yet, in my opinion, been fully resolved
in Kampuchea itself. Chanthou Boua and I have in 1979 in
terviewed a significant number ofKampuchean refugees, many
of whom state that, in 1975 or 1976 or both years, the peasants
in the villages they lived in gave support to the revolution. Many
others say the opposite; here we have evidence of divisions in
the revolution which have hitherto been greatly ignored. But all
the refugees point out that in late 1976 or early 1977 (following
Pol Pot's return to power after being briefly outmanoeuvred in
Phnom Penh), where this peasant support had existed it
changed to bitter hatred asfood rations were cut, executions of
recalcitrants increased, children were separated from their
parents, and daily life became more rigorously regimented. In
villages where the peasants had in 1975-6 been motivated by
fear ofthe revolutionaries as much as, or more than, by support
for them, life also became noticeably harsher. The political
situation in Kampuchea clearly changed from late 1976, and
very much for the worse. I personally didn't pick this up before
early 1978.
Also in early 1978, a number of disturbing facts about
recent Kampuchean foreign policy became known: premed
itated, systematic Kampuchean clashes with Thailand and
Laos. After a brief but hopeless attempt to see the situation
Kampuchea was in as a product of a Soviet desire for world
hegemony, I decided that Kampuchea's external relations could
not be divorced from its disastrous internal plight. It was quite
clear that Pol Pot was manufacturing foreign aggression to try
to distract the attention ofhis people and his oponents inside the
country from the horrific problems they faced, for which Pol Pot
and his team were largely responsible.
Supportfor the Pol Pot regime mayor may not be deemed
logical from deductive argument concerning its "struggle for
independence. " But what might give such argument credibility,
a detailed convincing analysis showing the regime's internal
policy to have served the interests ofthe Kampuchean workers
and peasants, is still lacking. And having talked at length with
workers and peasants who lived in many provinces of Kam
puchea under Pol Pot through 1977-8,1 am certain it will never
be produced.
In December 1978, the Far Eastern Economic Review
discussed the prospects of the newly-formed United Front for
National Salvation (UFNS) in Kampuchea led by Heng Samrin.
It quoted Western intelligence sources as saying that in villages
where it was established, one of the first moves the UFNS made
was to demolish the communal dining halls built by the Pol Pot
forces. The sources commented: "surprisingly, the Front seems
to be getting popular support. "1
After the overthrow of the Pol Pot Regime the next month,
the Review quoted the same intelligence sources to the effect
that in some areas the local Kampuchean population had risen
up in ., spontaneous and scattered uprising" against Pol Pot, and
were assisting the Vietnamese and Heng Samrin troops in their
attempts to mop up the defeated forces and unearth arms cach
Other sources confirm this, specifying one particular upris
ing of this kind at Cheom Khsanh in Preah Vihear province.
Many refugees who have fled to various parts of Thailand
because of the war in Kampuchea also report that the population
welcomed the Vietnamese troops and those of the UFNS army.
These troops established good relations with the villagers, they
Several peasants from northern Kampuchea were inter
viewed by international observers in the Surin refugee camp in
February. An Hian, 22, said that, in her village, "the Viet
namese stayed four days. They did not demand food but dis
tributed cooking instruments so villagers could eat individually
if they wanted to . . . I do not want to return to Kampuchea
because Pol Pot might come back to power," she added.
Suon Sophoat, 25, also said that the Vietnamese "dis
tributed food and ended communal dining." Non Loc, 76,
agreed and added that "they also distributed other goods to the
people. " He said that Pol Pot troops had killed 140 people in his
village of Kouk Mon since 1975; he did not trust them when they
asked the peasants to attend a meeting after the Vietnamese
troops had withdrawn. So he fled to Thailand.
Hong Var, whom Chanthou Boua and I interviewed at
length in Aranyaprathet on April 2, fled to Thailand with her
two daughters and 204 others on 12 March. She said every one
of the peasants and people of other backgrounds in her village
hated the Pol Pot regime bitterly; especially after the year 1978,
during which she said half the population of the village, An
daung Khlong, died or were executed. When they arrived, the
Vietnamese troops were welcomed, and did not mistreat the
people. There was a feast; the Vietnamese distributed food and
medicine, and re-established freedom of travel. Then they with
Fifty or sixty families of former Phnom Penh residents
decided to return home and set out after them. These people
were ambushed twice by Pol Pot troops not far from Andaung
Khlong, and nearly all of them were killed, Var said.
Pol Pot troops returned to the village. Not long after, Var
managed to join the people of the nearby village of Srae Memai,
who fled to Thailand almost to the last person. In Srae Memai,
17 men had been executed by the Pol Pot forces on their return.
William Shawcross interviewed some Kampuchean ref
ugees in another camp in Aranyaprathet, in March 1979. He
The Vietnamese appear anxious to win the hearts and minds
of the people and seem to behave well toward them. They
distribute rice and cooking utensils so that families can once
again eat en famille instead of en masse. They also either
appoint or supervise the election of new village officials.
Refugees give the impression that these changes are widely
welcomed, despite the fact that they are imposed by the
ancient enemy ofthe Khmers.
But the Vietnamese are stretched too thin apparently to
stay in the villages they have occupied. Invariably they move
on, sometimes leaving behind a radio for emergency calls.
This is ineffective. The Khmer Rouge then return, discover
from spies they have left behind what has happened, kill
those who collaborated (or were elected to official posts
under Vietnamese guidance), take away the food and then
force the people to march into the jungle ... This pattern
seems to have been repeatedjrequently, at least in the west of
In an analysis published in Le Monde
in May, based on in
terviews with other refugees, Francois Ponchaud concurred
with this. But according to "several refugees," he added, "the
Vietnamese are proceeding to empty the country of all the
wealth which might still remain." This has not yet been con
firmed. Finally, Ponchaud noted that dmost of the refugees tell
of the bad treatment of Khmer women by the Vietnamese." I
asked a Bangkok Kampuchea-watcher, who works in the em
bassy of a country which has not exactly enjoyed close relations
with the Vietnamese communists in the past twenty years, about
this. He said there had been cases of rape by Vietnamese
soldiers in Kampuchea, but that it was not a general phenome
non: one Vietnamese soldier was ordered shot by his superiors
for raping a Khmer woman, he said. He concluded:
"I don't accuse the Vietnamese of atrocities, and that inc
ludes starving the people. "
Khmer and ethnic Chinese refugees from Kampuchea,
interviewed in the Aranyaprathet camps by Chanthou Boua and
James Pringle on May 21, provided some more recent informa
tion about the looming food problem. One of them said:
There will certainly be famine. Everyone will die, starving to
death in the next three or four months. It is the farming
season now. There is rain everywhere, but no one can get
into the fields to do anything. The Vietnamese told us to go
and do thefarming, but there is still much fighting going on,
and also mines in the rice fields laid by the Pol Pot
forces . ...
Another refugee, questioned about such mines, said: "Pol Pot
laid them." The answer to the question: "Who is responsible
for all that has happened in Cambodia?" w a ~ unanimous: "Pol
Pot ... Pol Pot ... Pol Pot .... " But opinions were divided
as to what the new government was doing about the food
problem. One refugee said that "the Vietnamese are too busy
[fighting Pol Pot] to solve the food problem." Another said:
"We have seen planes and trucks transporting our food away,"
while yet another noted: "I have not seen the Vietnamese taking
rice out of Cambodia. " The refugees expressed general agree
ment with those who said:
The Khmer Rouge killed a person just like killing an ant. . . .
Pol Pot is worse than Hitler-afascist . ...
The Vietnamese did not give us any rice, but they did not hurt
When asked whether there had been any signs that the Heng
Samrin forces might kill them, they replied: "They were nice to
us, but it is communism."
More than a month after the change ofgovernment, a secret
meeting is reported to have taken place between representatives
of the Thai Communist Party and those of the Pol Pot forces in
Kampuchea. According to a detailed account in the Thai weekly
ThaiNikorn, the meeting, among other things, "took account of
the fact that about 80% of the Kampuchean people were in
suport of the Heng Samrin group. " The meeting further noted
A great number ofPol Pot soldiers have secret contacts with
the Heng Samrin Government, partly because they are sat
isfied to an extent with the policies of the Heng Samrin
government in granting certain freedoms relating to prop
erty, place ofresidence, etc.
Not a few Pol Pot soldiers say that if the Heng Samrin
government could push the Vietnamese soldiers out of Kam
puchean territory immediately, they would support the Heng
Samrin government 100% immediately. But ifthe Heng Sam
rin government could not do that, their support for it would
only be limited.
Interestingly, according to Thai Nikorn, the meeting then went
on to discuss the Khmer Serei, anti-communist Kampuchean
guerrillas based in Thailand.
Quite a number ofKhmer Serei could not bring themselves to
cooperate with Pol Pot in fighting against Heng Samrin
according to the advice of some large countries. They are
very angry about Pol Pot's massacres and confiscation of
property and are satisfied to a certain extent with the demo
cratic policies of the Heng Samrin group. Therefore they
secretly and openly cooperate with the Heng Samrin govern
ment concerning the activities of the extreme rightwing
groups in Thailand and of a certain number ofbig countries
on the matter of Kampuchea, by giving detailed information
speedily to the H eng Samrin government (about this). . . .5
Also in February, the Khmer Serei themselves drew up a report
on the situation in Kampuchea. According to this report:
The Heng Samrin government has given the inhabitants back
their freedom. The people have been authorized to leave the
cooperatives where they had been locked up by the Khmer
Rouge and to return to their villages.
The Vietnamese were accompanied by interpreters or small
groups ofsoldiers from the new people's army . . . In general
they conducted themselves well and even distributed small
supplies and medicine to the people. They urged the villagers
to elect a new village committee and often facilitated arming
ofself-defence units. . . The villagers (now) work halfa day
for the state on collective tasks such as planting rice and
irrigation work. The rest of the day they can work for them
selves . .. In general the people appear happy. 6
It is significant that before this report was released, the
Khmer Serei leadership had already decided to fight alongside
the Pol Pot troops against Heng Samrin's government and the
Thai military sources, too, reported in February that "most
Kampucheans are now in favour of the new regime led by Heng
Samrin. "8
Two non-communist journalists, Harish Chandola and
Jean-Pierre Gallois, visited several provinces of Kampuchea in
late March. Both reported evidence of the fact that the Pol Pot
regime had been murderous. They also reported that the roads in
eastern Kampuchea were' 'filled" with people returning to their
homes after being freed from places where they had been sent to
work by the Pol Pot regime.
Gallois, who said he was able to
talk to a number of Kampucheans unsupervised, wrote in a
report from Phnom Penh:
The Cambodians who have returned to this broken city feel
that they have been abandoned by the non-communist world.
They cannot believe that all the Western countries are con
tinuing to recognise the legality and existence ofthe Pol Pot
government. They cannot understand how the United Na
tions can disregard their views and try to destroy their only
outside support without finding a replacement to protect
them against a return ofPol Pot. In Chang Chamres village,
at the gates of Phnom Penh, the same question came back
dozens of times: "And what are France and United States
Every night the people ofChang Chamres listen to Western
broadcasts in the hope ofa reply.
The Cambodia that survived Pol Pot is like a dismembered
body coming back to life. . . .
Meeting today the people of Phnom Penh, the visitor leaves
convinced that the Cambodian people feel, at least at pre
sent, only gratitude and reassurance over the Vietnamese
presence here. 10
Chandola, for his part, reported that "there was no shortage of
Kampucheans anxious to assure me they'd been saved by the
Vietnamese. " II French journalist Roger Pick received the same
impression during a later visit to Phnom Penh. 12
In May I spoke at length with an ethnic Khmer peasant
from a Thai border village, who asked not to be identified. He
said he had crossed into Kampuchea for five days in April, to
search for relatives who used to live on the other side of the
border. He visited Samron, the capital of Kampuchea's Oddar
Meanchey province, as well as the village of Trabek and other
He said he had discovered that all but two of his relatives had
died or been killed during the Pol Pot period. The surviving two
had joined the UFNS army, which he said was well-liked by the
population and in good military control of the Province. Asked
about Vietnamese troops, he said he couldn't say anything about
them since he had been unable to communicate with them.
In Sarnrong, this peasant said, mass graves were now being
unearthed; these contained the bodies of victims of Pol Pot
soldiers, with their hands still bound at the wrists. Many of the
dead were monks. Now, he said, the Heng Samrin government
was encouraging the practice of Buddhism once again; this was
a popular move, he thinks. He said people had told him they
were eating better in 1979 than they had in 1978, under Pol Pot.
Food was still scarce, but he said there was no starvation when
he was there. He was told that because the United Nations did
not recognize the new government, "the Khmer would be on
their own for a while" with only limited Russian assistance. But
he thought morale was quite high since people in Kampuchea
were extremely happy to have done with the Pol Pot regime.
This feeling appears general but may not be unanimous.
One Khmer, a former stretcher-bearer for the Pol Pot forces,
arrived in the Surin camp in Thailand on May II from a village
in Oddar Meanchey. He told international' observers that the
Vietnamese troops were treating the local population "pretty
well"; however, he said that the Vietnamese suspected some
members of the UFNS forces of aiding Pol Pot, and he saw the
Vietnamese disarming some of them. The disarming of Heng
Samrin troops was also reported by a refugee from Battambang,
interviewed by Chanthou Boua and James Pringle on May 21.
From late February 1979, when according to refugees arriving
in Aranyaprathet the Pol Pot forces regained possession of a
number of villages and massacred large numbers of their in
habitants, 13 Vietnamese troops distributed arms to civilians for
their self-protection. The recall of many of these weapons may
signify a rationalization of the UFNS army, or, possibly, politi
cal difficulties within it.
While Kampuchean refugees continued to flee to Thailand
from the fighting in their country (many of them marched along
by armed Pol Pot soldiers under whose guard they remained
while in Thailand), 14 some voluntarily went back the other way.
These refugees, who fled Kampuchea before the change of
government, headed for peaceful areas of the country where Pol
Pot forces are no longer active. By early May 1979, according to
the UN High Commission for Refugees, between 800 and 1,000
Khmers had returned home from the Surin camp. Later reports
indicate that by the end of May another one thousand had gone
back voluntarily to UFNS areas of Kampuchea from the Aran
yaprathet camp. IS Yet another thousand left for home in April
from a camp 30 km. south of Pakse in Laos.
The general popularity of the new government in Kam
puchea is to a large extent a reflection of the extreme unpopUlar
ity of its predecessor. But it has also had to overcome deep
rooted traditional ethnic prejudices between Kampucheans and
Vietnamese. Reports about the good behavior of the Viet
namese troops towards civilians, carried by nearly all Kampu
cheans who came into contact with them and are now in Thai
land, are not characteristic of reports about invading armies, nor
of the way many Kampucheans used to talk about Vietnamese.
However, 10,000 ethnic Chinese residents of Kampuchea
who crossed into Thailand in early May might have received
different treatment. In a letter which they subsequently wrote to
the Chinese embassy in Bangkok, these refugees made two
points. Firstly, they claimed that in the years 1975-78 over half a
million ethnic Chinese had died or were killed in Kampuchea.
(One refugee also complained that the Chinese embassy had
done "nothing" to protect the ethnic Chinese in Kampuchea
during this period.) With the change of government in January,

the letter went on to point out, the ethnic Chinese were at first
allowed freedom to travel and earn their living at will. 16 But, in
May "pressure against them" mounted and the Vietnamese
"inspired disunity between the Kampucheans and the overseas
Chinese," the letter said.
On being questioned about this, one of these refugees told
journalists that "there was little direct abuse by the Vietnamese
troops in Kampuchea." But in the letter the ethnic Chinese said
they had been blamed for Beijing's support of the Pol Pot
government; this "caused simple-minded people to be more
hateful to overseas Chinese. They beat and seized belongings of
the overseas Chinese after the Vietnamese occupation," the
letter said. 17
Not long after, Vietnamese officers in Battambang pro
vince of Kampuchea reportedly announced that those ethnic
Chinese who wanted to leave Kampuchea could do so. Thou
sands were taken in trucks to the Thai border. 30-year-old Ang
Hua, one of a group of 4,500, told Associated Press "that his
group never would go back to Kampuchea because they would
be killed by Pol Pot troops. He said the Pol Pot side had branded
all who joined the new government and the Vietnamese as
'traitors' and had executed many of them. "II!
According to press accounts, the Chinese were transported
to Thailand by the Vietnamese in return for payment in gold. 19
During the May 21 interviews with Chanthou Boua and James
Pringle, however, one ethnic Chinese at Aranyaprathet denied
this, saying: "In the Chinese newspaper they said we had to pay
money to leave Kampuchea, but that was not true. We were
robbed when we crossed the border." Another of these re
fugees, asked about the difference between the regimes of Pol
Pot and Heng Samrin, replied:
There is not much difference but under the Vietnamese we
have our own pots and pans ... And also Heng Samrin's
followers don't kill people.
So why do you think that Heng Samrin is not better than Pol Pot?
Because they are very tough on the Chinese . .. but not on
the Khmer.
Tae Hui Lang, an ethnic Chinese refugee who left Kam
puchea in late May 1979, was interviewed at length by
Chan thou Boua and myself in Paris on August 10, 1979. Her
account is worth giving in detail. Lang lived nearly four years
under the Khmer Rouge, an ordeal which ended with a month
long forced march through the forest of Pursat and Battambang
provinces; during the battles that accompanied the march "the
rural popUlation would gather together and then run behind the
Vietnamese lines,' she said. Finally her Khmer Rouge escorts
were driven off, and Lang and a group of other Khmer civilians
were free to do the same. After being sent by the Vietnamese to a
place where they could obtain food and water, they set out for
the town of Battambang.
One woman in the group gave birth to a baby along the
way. Some Vietnamese soldiers felt sorry for her, and arranged
for a truck to take her the rest of the way. When she arrived in
Battambang the Vietnamese brought milk and medicine to her
and found a place for her to live. They carried her things for her
I 23
and arranged for people to look after her, much to the woman's
pleasure. Lang herself, who had a two-year old baby, was
assisted in carrying her things by Vietnamese soldiers along the
way. Although they couldn't speak any Khmer they still made a
good impression on Lang's group. "I don't know what their
politics was about, but from what I saw they did good things,"
Lang said. While marching through the forest, the Khmer
Rouge had told her that the Vietnamese would kill civilians and
molest women, but it didn't tum out to be true, she said.
There were both northern and southern Vietnamese troops.
In their encounters with the Khmer population, the northerners
behaved much better than the southerners, according to Lang.
While walking to Battambang, Lang said she depended on the
Vietnamese soldiers a lot, and always made sure that there were
some on the road ahead to protect her. During this trip the
northern troops warned her that the southerners might be a little
undisciplined, and they were, although they never did any harm
to Lang or anyone with her. "Their leaders were nice," Lang
Lang and her family arrived in Battambang city just before
the Khmer New Year in April 1979. She found Vietnamese
troops quartered in the city itself; Khmer civilians coming from
the countryside were told to build houses for themselves outside
the town center. There were many Khmers there, mostly former
city dwellers or ethnic Chinese, or farmers who had been
slightly better off than others in the pre-1975 period. There were
many more women than men since "all the men had been killed
off by the Khmer Rouge," Lang said.
There were 100 Vietnamese soldiers for every 10 Khmer
troops of the new Heng Samrin government. Khmer officials
were given the highest-ranking posts, such as province chief,
but were flanked by Vietnamese officials from whom' 'they had
to ask permission to get things done," according to Lang. She
thinks this might have been because the Vietnamese . 'wanted to
take over our land but at the same time give the false impression
that the Khmer have power." Or alternatively it might have
been because there were hardly any qualified Khmer officials,
intellectuals or skilled personnel to be found. In fact, she said,
there were "very few of them left, they had all been killed
except for the ones who had managea to hide their backgrounds
from the Khmer Rouge. Out of 100, only 2 or 3 were left. "
Still, Lang says things were "like before" and that life was
"normal," although the population were still scared of Khmer
Rouge raids. The Khmer Rouge were by now reduced to small
groups who sometimes made murderous sorties from the forest,
but were no significant threat either to the population or to the
V ietnamese army.
There was a Khmer New Year celebration in Battambang,
organized as in pre-1975 years. The Vietnamese and the Heng
Samrin troops didn't join in the dancing and festivities, but the
latter appointed a committee (kanak kammakar) of people
chosen from among the lower classes to organize the occasion.
Songs were sung, and people visited neWly-reopened pagodas.
Although the Vietnamese army didn't provide much food for the
population, Lang says the people were grateful to them for
"letting us have freedom to do what we wanted ... The people
like the Vietnamese much more than the Khmer Rouge. The
Vietnamese have more heart than the Khmer Rouge."
This also applied to the Vietnamese treatment of their
prisoners Lang said. The Vietnamese had captured "many,
many Khmer Rouge ... they put them in trucks, sent them to
jail, and even fed them full. " The people were very angry and
wanted to kill these Khmer Rouge but the Vietnamese tried to
prevent them, advising them to let bygones by bygones and
saying that they would try to re-educate the Khmer Rouge. But
in a few cases, despite the efforts of the Vietnamese to stop
them, the people could not hold back their anger and a number
of Khmer Rouge prisoners were killed.
An important reason for her decision to leave was that, in
her opinion, "the Khmer people now hate the Chinese minor
ity" in Kampuchea. This was despite the fact that the local
Chinese community had suffered under the Khmer Rouge as
much as the ethnic Khmers had: "We weren't allowed even to
speak Chinese; we were accused of being capitalists by the
Khmer Rouge, we were killed off." During the Khmer Rouge
period, her father at one stage asked some Chinese advisors,
sent to Kampuchea by Beijing, for help in relieving the hard
ships of life, but they refused. But the population of Battambang
in mid-1979 held China responsible for their own sufferings in
the previous four years, and associated local Chinese with the
Beijing government. Khmer civilians were in fact preparing to
hold an anti-Chinese demonstration (patekam) in Battambang,
"to smash the Chinese in Kampuchea," they said. The Viet
namese did not allow this, and warned people not to talk in terms
of the Chinese, Khmer, and Vietnamese races. A Vietnamese
leader addressed the crowd, saying that the ethnic Chinese had
suffered under the Khmer Rouge, too, and asked people to calm
down. He also asked those who wanted to fight the Chinese to
put up their hands. A few hands were raised, and he told these
people to pack up their things and get ready to go to fight against
the Chinese aggressors who had attacked Vietnam. He pointed
out that the Chinese residents of Kampuchea were not responsi
ble for all that had happened: many of them had died, he said.
After that the crowd calmed down and there was no demonstra
tion, but anti-Chinese feeling among the Khmers subsisted.
Many ethnic Chinese felt insecure, and didn't want to stay in
Kampuchea any longer. Some of them went to see the Viet
namese leaders in Battambang, who recognized the situation
and gave the Chinese a free choice of whether to go or stay.
Lang was not required to make any payment to the Vietnamese
in order to leave.
In five months of power the People's Republic of Kam
puchea managed to make an impressive political start. Paris
based representatives of Khmer exiles recognize that' 'the pres
ent authorities in Phnom Penh" are not mere puppets of Viet
nam but in fact "could become an important national political
force after the Vietnamese troops withdraw from Kampu
chea. "20 Whether the UFNS can maintain its evident popularity
while it attempts to deal decisively with Pol Pot's army and Pol
Pot's own foreign backers, and haul the country out ofeconomic
ruin under the threat ofa very severe famine, remains to be seen. *
I. Far Eastern Economic Review. 22/12/78.
2. Far Eastern Economic Review. 26/1/79.
3. Asian Wall Street Journal. 29 March 1979.
4. 10 May 1979.
5. Thai Nikorn. Bangkok (Thai-language). 14 May 1979. pp. 14-16.
6. AFP report by Joel Henri. Bangkok. 3 March 1979. Part of this report
may be found in Le Matin de Paris. 5 March 1979.
7. Business Times. Bangkok. 2/5/79. can;es an interview with a Khmer
Serei officer who said the order to fight alongside the Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot
"came through Bangkok on February 2." presumably from Paris. According to
a Khmer-language weekly in Paris. "it is no longer a secret for anyone" that
Khmer exile leader Son Sann met with Pol Pot representatives in Bangkok on
27-30 May 1979. (Angkor. 29/7/79.) The Thai government's role in fostering
continued insecurity in Kampuchea was indicated by a UPI report from Bangkok
by Paul Wedel on 14 May 1979. Wedel wrote: "Khmer Serei soldiers and
Khmer Rouge deserters have set up a camp with over 5.000 people in the
Cambodian mountains supported by the Thai military to oppose the Vietnamese
occupation anny. eyewitnesses have said ... A 28-year-old refugee. who
asked that his name not be revealed. said he was among almost 1.700 refugees
from a camp in Thailand who were handed over to the guerrillas by Thai military
officers ... The refugees were involuntary recruits, and 1.000 of the Khmer Serei
soldiers were "supplied from Thailand," Wedel went on. According to one aid
organization. a short time later: "It is reliably reported that already 200 of the
1.700 (civilians) are dead. through lack of food and medical care." Christian
Outreach. Newsletter no. 45. p.6.
8. Nation Review. Bangkok, 16/2/79.
9. Ibid .. 21/3/79.
10. AFP. 25 March 1979.
II. Asiaweek. 13/4/79.
12. Interview with Bulletin de I'Association France-Cambodge. July
13. See above. For further evidence. a missionary who speaks fluent
Khmer and works closely with the Kampuchean refugees told me on 3 April
1979 that in several villages of Battambang province. returning Pol Pot troops
had executed every single adult male in the village. He added. on the other hand.
that' 'the Vietnamese seem OK. so far." According to US Assistant Secretary of
State for Asia. Richard Holbrooke. Pol Pot forces in early 1979 "massacred a
large number of villagers." He told a congressional hearing that "the Pol Pot
forces killed the villagers because they had accepted pots and pans from the
Vietnamese." This is contirmed by many other sources. See my articles in
Nation Review (Melbourne). 5/4/79 and 24/5/79.
14.. Thailand has not prevented Pol Pot troops from killing. on Thai soil. a
large number of Kampuchean refugees and a number of Thai citizens as well.
See Nation Review (Melbourne) 24/5/79. and AP dispatch from Khaw Sa-Thon.
Thailand. by Visetsak Sanguangpong; W 105. R33. May 1979. The latter quotes
a refugee. Tee Suphat. 25. "who admitted he had acted as a guard forthe Pol Pot
side." as saying that Pol Pot soldiers trekking "with the civilian columns along
the border were given . 'permission .. from higher echelons to execute suspected
traitors ... He claimed to have seen the bodies of about 40 Cambodian civilians
including children. stabbed to death by Pol Pot soldiers just inside Cambodia
across from the Thai province ofChanthaburi. The Pol Pot soldiers he talked to
said the dead were' traitors."
15. These people are quite distinct from those. said to be over 40.000.
forcibly sent back to Kampuchea against their will. either into the hands of
Pol Pot forces. or Khmer Serei forces. or into jungled sections of the frontier
sown with minetields. For a horrifying report of these people's fate' and the
callous role of the Thai Special Forces. see Liberation. Paris 9 July 1979. based
on an eyewitness account.
16. Bangkok Post. 11/5/79.
17. Business Times. Bangkok. 16/5/79.
18. Bangkok Post. 23/5/79.
19. See for instance. Business Times. 17/5/79.
20. Allgkor (Paris). 29/7/79.
H an excellent n"" jollrnaJ 0/ idtar . ... "
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Multinational Corporations in Asia
The Labor-Intensive Factory
by Robert T. Snow
In a segment of his recent television series on economics,
"The Age of Uncertainty," John Kenneth Galbraith makes a
number of critical remarks about multinational corporations.
However, towards the end of the program, the screen is sud
denly filled with pictures of bustling Singapore, and Galbraith
comments that, whatever else can be said of them, the MNCs
have played a major role in bringing economic development and
employment to this and many other parts of the world. The
implication is that the employment and economic growth fos
tered by the large corporations in Asian countries like Singapore
are-by definition-changes for the better.
MNCs have an impact on many aspects of Third World
social and cultural life beyond the creation of employment.
Corporate choices of products to be marketed, often based on
tastes and demand in affluent nations, have a drastic effect on
the types of consumer goods to which people in under
developed countries are exposed. I MNC advertising campaigns
create and reinforce these wants; television programs, motion
pictures, and music from the industrialized nations, often pro
duced and marketed by MNCs, change indigenous culture and
social life in a variety of ways.2 Tourism (international hotel
chains, airlines, and some travel agencies operate as MNCs)
influences the form in which local culture is preserved and
packaged, as well as shaping the job market. 3 Despite the
importance of these social and cultural influences of MNCs, this
article will concentrate on the impact of the new jobs that they
create in the Third World. Ultimately, it is by changing the ways
in which people earn their livelihood that MNCs have the
greatest impact on social and cultural life.
It is worth noting that much of the literature on MNCs and
employment in fact concentrates on the role of the giant corpora
tions in job-loss or job-creation in the industrialized nations,
particularly the U.S. Despite the comparatively wide range of
statistics and related information available to researchers in
these countries, the conclusions reached usually tell more about
the interest groups financing the report than the situation itself:
the AFL-CIO finds significant U.S. job loss and the Emergency
Committee for American Trade (a business association) finds
significant U.S. job gain. While it is difficult to draw hard and
fast conclusions, it is at least clear that jobs in the unskilled
sector are being lost as MNCs relocate to cheap labor countries. 4
The important point here is that even in developed countries
where information is relatively accessible, the argument has
tended to devolve into a highly questionable numbers game with
little attention paid to the impact which having or losing a job in
a giant corporation has for the worker.
For Galbraith, in the admittedly simplified forum of a
television program, MNC investment is depicted as a source of
employment beneficial to the host country and the workers. This
presumption can be attacked from at least two perspectives: (1)
that MNC factory investments actually decrease overall job
opportunities in a poor nation, and (2) that the jobs which are
created are not particularly useful for on-going national de
velopment or for the individuals employed. My own research in
Asia leads me to the latter conclusion, that, at least in most
non-socialist East and Southeast Asian countries today, the
problem with MNC-created employment is not that there is too
little of it, but that it is less than beneficial.
Other writers have stated that, by mechanizing production,
MNC factory investments in underdeveloped countries put trad
itional producers and craftspeople out of business. Output is
dramatically increased but far fewer workers are required. To
this theme, which was not new when Marx described it in
Capital, has been added a refinement which deals more specif
ically with the modern multinational corporation. Richard
Barnet and Ronald Muller in Global Reach state that, "the sort
of technology that global corporations export to poor countries
is capital-intensive and labor-saving, because that is what they
have developed in the United States as a response to high labor
costs." In this way, the MNC investment "destroys jobs. "s
The more capital-intensive industrialization takes place, the
more workers-even those formerly employed in manu
facturing-lose their jobs.
The potential for capital-intensive industrialization to de
stroy jobs is now widely acknowledged. Economic planners in
most capitalist Asian countries advocate incentives to entice
labor-intensive investments on the part of MNCs. Gerardo P.
Sicat, Director-General of the Philippine National Economic
and Development Authority, is a notable example. He is an
aggressive proponent of schemes which offer tax holidays to
foreign investors willing to increase employment through pro
duction for the export market. 6
Yale development economist Gustav Ranis agrees that
there has been a dearth of new employment associated with
foreign investments. However, he sees this as a characteristic of
an historical era which is nearing its close. In his idealized
model, early MNC investments in poor countries were often
capital-intensive and focused on manufacturing goods for the
local market. These traits did limit employment potential. Now,
however, Ranis sees the capital-intensive "import-substitution
sub-phase" of MNC investment giving way increasingly to "an
unskilled labor based export substitution sub-phase" character
ized "by the capacity of the now more experienced domestic
entrepreneurs to combine with the country's abundant supply of
cheap labor and begin to look outward, away from the limited
domestic market, and toward expandable markets for labor
intensive goods." Therefore, "one can how conceive of a
benign and productive combination between the advantages of
the MNC, with its global scan of markets and technology, and
the growing domestic expertise based on the specificity and
peculiarities of the local resource endowment and institutional
factors."7 A key element in the Third World country's "local
resource endowment" is presumably its large pool of cheap
unskilled labor. Ranis makes it clear throughout that his
scenario is idealized and that import-substitution schemes are
not about to vanish overnight. As he puts it, "what we are
contemplating here is the gradual shift from a forced march
pattern of import-substitution to the more flexible ballet-style
advance of [labor-intensive] export-orientation along compara
tive advantage lines." (p. to l) Here his image of the future
merges with Galbraith's: MNCs will absorb labor "at a rate far
ahead of population (and labor force) growth," bringing the
economy into "the epoch of mature growth."8
While Ranis' sanguine projections of economic maturity
ring rather hollow particularly in the face of a world export
market slump which lasted through most of the mid-1970s and
the current series of industrialized nation decisions to raise
tariffs against Third World manufactured products, there is little
doubt that MNC use of Third World cheap labor, particularly in
Asia, is on the increase.
Barnet and Muller, from a critical
perspective, concur with Ranis on this point, although they
emphasize that the mix of "labor-dispensing strategies (in
creased use of automation) and wage-reduction strategies (in
creased use of low-wage workers)" followed by a given in
dustry will depend upon its particular circumstances. 10 Not all
products are conducive to labor-intensive techniques in coun
tries 10,000 miles from the final market place, but those which
are will increasingly be manufactured or assembled in Asia and
other parts of the Third World. For all of these reasons, the
criticism of MNC investment as a destroyer of jobs may be
waning in importance as corporations, under host government
and world market pressure, explore new ways of utilizing cheap
The second criticism of MNC employment practices in
underdeveloped countries, that the types of jobs created are not
beneficial to the workers or the national economy, is less well
researched. It is often addressed by references to MNC rates of
pay and hours of work in various countries. Barnet and Muller,
for instance, provide wage comparisons between Third World
and U. S. workes 11 and give samples of the lengths of working
days.12 However, such statistics without comparable data on
prevailing local conditions give little sense of the meaning of
MNC jobs for the workers.
There have been critics further to the Left than Barnet and
Muller who state that MNC wage rates have, in fact, been
relatively higher than the prevailing local rates, leading the
corporate employees to become an affluent enclave or labor
aristocracy. 13 Others disagree strongly, seeing exploited MNC
workers becoming a potential revolutionary vanguard. 14
With the rapid growth of labor-intensive MNC investment
in Asia, it is becoming more and more important to understand
the impact of such development. To find answers to the types of
questions posed but not answered in the existing literature, it
seems necessary to move from the aggregate data commonly
(and often speciously) adduced to the argument to a more
detailed case-study approach.
The Labor-Intensive Factory
and Its Social Impact
Galbraith and Ranis both stress the role of MNCs in
generating economic growth and employment. In Asia, most of
this development has occurred since the mid-1970s. Singapore,
along with Hong Kong and Taiwan, were pioneers in attracting
foreign-owned factories employing large numbers of low-wage
laborers, almost all ofthem female, to produce goods for export
to the more affluent markets of the West and Japan. During the
boom years of the late 1960s, there was considerable demand
for such products. Other nations in the region began adopting
similar export -oriented manufacturing schemes in the late 1960s
and early 1970s. It is now this rapid spread of labor-intensive
export-oriented factories which represents the most serious
MNC threat to workers and to national economies in Asia today.
The specter of unemployment induced by over-concentration on
high-technology capital-intensive techniques is more and more
The statements made here are based on field research
carried on in the Philippines in 1975. In 1969 the government of
the Philippines, following the lead of Taiwan and Korea, es
tablished an Export Processing Zone designed primarily to
attract foreign factory investment. By 1975, most of the com
panies operating in the zone were relatively small joint-ventures
involving Filipino entrepreneurs and Japanese or Chinese (from
Hong Kong and Taiwan) investors. A few firms were 100%
foreign owned. Virtually all the companies were labor-intensive
producers of garments, textiles, or footwear. The manufactuers
were in competition with each other, and with similar factories
in many other Third World countries. Almost all the products
were sold to buyers in North America, Japan, Australia, or
Europe. While most of the factories were not wholly-owned by
multinationals, their access to the markets of the industrialized
nations was controlled by giant buyer corporations; Sears
Roebuck, J.e. Penney, Montgomery-Ward, and an assortment
of Japanese trading companies. Thus the companies employing
the workers described here were, for the most part, connected to
the MNCs by contract arrangement. They were firms with
headquarters in a variety of nations and they engaged in the
manufacture of goods for a highly competitive market.
For workers drawn to the new factories, the kind of jobs
which this export-oriented deyelopment program creates have at
least three serious problems: a subsistence wage, chronic job
insecurity, and little new learning of skills. If the government
wants to continue to attract investors to the zone, it must keep
wages low, and, because the jobs depend on world market
forces largely controlled by MNCs, the economic planners in
the Philippines can do nothing to guarantee their workers' jobs.
The types of plants attracted do not require highly trained
workers. In addition, the fact that the government depends
increasingly on its ability to attract and retain such MNC in
vestors necessitates repression of the rights of organized labor.
It is no accident that MNC investment rose dramatically after the
1972 imposition of martial law which banned strikes and most
labor union activity.
Presenting the story of a typical woman worker from the
zone suggests itself as the most appropriate way to show the
impact of these new jobs at the individual level. One of the
workers who agreed to be interviewed was named Nelia. She
was one of 309 randomly selected factory workers surveyed at
the Philippine zone in 1975, and alsooneof24 volunteers drawn
from the larger sample for indepth interviewing. Her experi
ences are similar to those reported by many of the other workers
Nelia and many other women workers were drawn to the
zone. by the necessity of earning a cash income for themselves
and their families (their siblings and cousins were also leaving
the farm to seek wage-paying jobs in the modern sector of the
economy), and by the hope of delaying early marriage and
In the rural barrios from which they came, marriage often
occurred at a relatively early age, especially for women, and
often between a man and a woman who did not know each other
well. It was not uncommon for a chance meeting 'to lead to
parental pressure for marriage. Couples began having children
almost immediately, and large families were the rule. Nelia and
many of the workers saw the facto.ry as their best chance to
postpone the responsibilities of family life. In this way, the zone
job did have some positive features for the new women workers.
Nelia finished high school second in her class. Her level of
education was not unusual among the factory workers coming to
the zone. A high school diploma was almost a necessary qualifi
cation for a zone job. More than two-thirds of the workers
surveyed had had a high school education or better. 45.6% of
the workers had completed high school and another 22% had
gone on to college or even graduated from college. This is one of
the most important attractions for investors who set up factories
in the zone. A nation-wide school system was established early
in the period of American rule, and literacy rates are very high
throughout the country. The most important feature of her
education for Nelia in her job was that she was coming into the
factory not only literate, but disciplined. She and the other
workers had been taught the value of punctuality and of follow
ing orders in the schools. This meant that the factory managers
had a much easier time of training their new laborers, a fact
which they themselves frequently pointed out.
Despite her educational level, it was not easy for Nelia to
get a job in a zone factory. While some 3,000 people had gotten
work, there was a waiting list of 10,000 persons seeking em
ployment. The jobs were very much in demand. Largely on the
strength of a relative's letter of introduction, Nelia was hired by
the factory making Western-style suits for the U.S. market.
These suits, as mentioned, were sold on contract to a U.S.
middleman who had exclusive rights to the U. S. market.
Nelia was still in training at this plant during our initial
interviews. She was being taught to be a presser of pants. She
said that she had learned the "skill" involved in less than a day.
While many proponents of MNCs imply that the transfer of
skills is one of the important benefits of their presence, the
learning of new technology was clearly not to be one of the
fringe benefits of Nelia's job, or most others in the zone.
Despite this fact, the training period was to last three months at
three-fourths of the minimum wage.
A large part of Nelia's training focused on learning the
rules and regulations of the company. She had two weeks in a
classroom devoted to these matters. When asked about the
substance of these sessions, she said that the emphasis had been
on punctuality and the consequences of being tardy or absent
without permission, usually referred to as "awol." She was
also told to wear the company uniform every day. The company
had a set of "Ten Commandments for Workers" (appendix, p.
71) which further defined the idea of correct behavior. Control
over the workers was reinforced by the presence of martial-law
empowered police and military units in the zone.
Nelia worked eight hours a day, six days a week unless she
had forced overtime. For her labors, she had received 144 pesos
the previous month, or $20.60, as a trainee. This could be
expected to rise to about $27.50, the minimum wage, when the
training period came to an end. Of her month's income, 35
pesos went directly to her family. The remaining 109 pesos
(about $ 15) had to cover her own living expenses. She paid 20
pesos a month for a bedspace in a private boarding house, and
about 45 pesos a month for food. This came to a combined room
and board cost of about $9.50 for a living which was just barely
subsistence. This left her about $5.50 a month for transportation
(she returned home most weekends), clothing, entertainment,
and savings for a hoped-for education.
Those who see MNCs as. the "engines of development"
give the impression that any wage is an improvement over
nothing. 15 This formulation, however, begs the question. When
zone workers were laid off, as not infrequently occurred, they
took jobs in the traditional sector, selling snacks in the market
place or doing laundry. For this they received the same pay in
most cases as they had in the zone factories. While one can not
build a modern national economy on these types ofjobs, the fact
that workers in the zone could earn comparable pay in the
traditional sector indicates that the new industrial jobs were not
as vast an economic improvement for the individuals employed
as the supporters of multinationals would have us believe. The
new zone jobs posed the additional problem, rarely mentioned
by the proponents of labor-intensive MNC production for ex
port, of exposing workers to frequent factory closings and
layoffs triggered by slumps in the world market.
When first interviewed in 1975, Nelia was already ex
tremely concerned for the se(;;urity of her job. Many workers
whom she knew had been laid off or gone unpaid for long
periods of time. The zone factories producing for the MNC
controlled world market made the new workers at least as
insecure, and perhaps even more insecure, than their parents
had been when they lived off small sharecrop farms or fishing.
The workers' parents at least owned the tools of their trade and
had some control over small-scale means of production. They
t could also count on some support from their families and local
leaders tied to them by the compadre system of mutual obliga
tion. The new workers, far from home and reliant upon the
factories, had none of these safety nets. Their pay was too low to
allow for much saving against a rainy day, and their new
"skills" were not specialized enough to get them a new job
When a research assistant talked with Nelia again in 1976,
she had in fact been laid off for two weeks during the intervening
year. Nor was Nelia unique. Of the 23 workers re-interviewed in
1976, eleven had been laid-off for an average of three months
each (ranging from two weeks to nine months).
~ Furthermore, the dependence of the zone workers' jobs on
the world market meant that while the government of the Philip
pines could do little to guarantee the security of these workers'
jobs, it had to do everything in its power to prevent their wages
from rising. Since low wages were one of the chief attractions
for foreign investors and buyers, any rise in payor benefits
threatened the competitive advantage of the Philippines over its
industrializing neighbors in attracting MNCs. By the same
token, the government was obliged to continue the repression of
worker organizations and demands if it wanted to appeal to
During the year between the two interviews, the wages of
the average worker sampled had increased about 18%. The cost
of room and board had gone up 23%, and workers said that the
prices of other goods and services had increased even more
quickly. These statistics are based on a very small sample
(n=23) and can only be used to suggest the overall trends, but
they hint that, while some increase in wages was necessary to
cover the rising cost of living, it was government and manage
ment policy to raise wages only enough to cover part of the
inflated prices.
In Galbraith's "Age of Uncertainty" series, and in the
works of many supporters of the multinationals, it is assumed
that MNC investments create jobs, and furthermore, that these
jobs are a contribution to the well-being of workers and of the
national economy. In Asia in the mid and late 1970s the trend is
toward large foreign corporations investing in labor-intensive
production. Jobs are being created. It is the social usefulness of
these new jobs which is questionable. Does it benefit the indi
vidual or the nation to create a new class of workers-primarily
young, female, and of rural background-who are paid a sub
sistence wage with little hope of increase; who are subject to a
whole range of new insecurities because of uncontrollable fluc
tuations in the world market; who are not taught any transferable
skills; and who are denied the right to strike because worker
upheaval would discourage continued MNC investment? I be
lieve that it is through the creation of this new class of workers
that multinational corporations are having the greatest social
impact in Asia today, and that this new female proletariat will
emerge as a decisive factor in movements for social and political
*' change in the 1980s.
I. See Raymond Vernon, . 'International Investment and International
Trade in the Product Cycle," Quarterly Journal of Economics, (1966)80: 190
207; Karl P. Sauvant and Bernard Mennis. "Puzzling over the Immaculate
Conception of Indifference Curves: The Transnational Transfer and Creation of
Socio-Political and Economic Preferences," paper presented at the Second
German Studies Conference. April 12-17, 1977. Bloomington, Indiana;
Georges Leroy. Multinational Product Strategy: A Typology for Analysis of
Worldwide Product Innovation and Diffusion (New York: Praeger Publishers,
2. See Herbert 1. Schiller, Communication and Cultural Domination
(White Plains, N. Y.: International Arts and Sciences Press, 1976).
3. See Louis Turner, "The International Division of Leisure: Tourism and
the Third World." World Development, (1976),4(3):253-260; and G. Francill,
"Tourism in Bali-Its Economic and Sociocultural Impact: Three Points of
View," International Social Science Journal (1975),27(4):721-752.
4. Raymond Vernon, Storm Over the Multinationals: The Real Issues
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977), 116.
5. Richard J. Barnet and Ronald E. Miiller. Global Reach: The Power of
Multinational Corporations (New York: Simon Schuster, 1974), 166.
6. Gerardo P. Sicat, Economic Policy and Philippine Development
(Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1972) and New Economic
Directions in the Philippines (Manila: National Economic and Development
Authority, 1974).
7. Gustav Ranis. "The Multinational Corporation as an Instrument of
Development," in David Apter and Louis Goodman (eds.), The Multinational
Corporation and Social Change (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1976), IOI.
8. Ibid., pp. 10 1-102.
9. For further information on export-oriented development and its labor
impact, see Ampo, Free Trade Zones and Industrialization of Asia (Tokyo:
Pacific Resources Center, 1977); Business International Corporation, "Four
Asian countries take Japanese route to rapid industrialization," Business Inter
national, (November 24, 1978),369-371; Jose de la Torre, "Foreign Invest
ment and Export Dependency, .. Economic Developmem and Cultural Change
(1974), 23: 133-150; Folker Frobel, Jurgen Heinrichs, and Otto Kreye, "The
New International Division of Labor," Social Science Information, (1978)
17: 123-142; G. K. Helleiner, "Manufactured exports from less developed
countries and multinational firms," The Economic Journal (1973) 83:21-47,
and Helleiner. "Manufacturing for export, multinational firms, and economic
development," World Development (1973) 1:13-21; Otto Kreye, World
Market-Oriented Industrialization of Developing Countries: Free Production
Zones and World Market Factories (Starnberg, Federal Republic of Germany:
Max Planck Institut. 1977); Linda Y. C. Lim. Multinational Firms and Manu
facturingfor Export in Less-Developed Countries: The Case of the Electronics
Industry in Malaysia and Singapore (Ann Arbor: Dept. of Economics. Uni
versity of Michigan, 1978) and Lim, "Women Workers in Multinational Corpo
rations: the case of the electronics industry in Malaysia and Singapore,"
Michigan Occasional Paper IX (Fall 1978); William G. Tyler, "Manufactured
exports and employment creation in developing countries-some empirical
evidence," Economic Development and Cultural Change, (1976) 24(2):355
373; United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Promotion of
Export-Oriented Industries (New York: United Nations, 1969); Susumu Wata
nabe, "International subcontracting, employment, and skill promotion," Inter
national Labour Review (1972) 105(2):425-449.
10. Barnet and Miiller, Global Reach, pp. 171-172.
II. Ibid., p. 127.
12. Ibid.. p. 29.
13. For example, Giovanni Arrighi, .. International Corporations, Labour
Aristocracies, and Economic Development in Tropical Africa," in Robert I.
Rhodes (ed.). Imperialism and Underdevelopment (New York: Monthly Re
view Press. 1970),220-267.
14. For example. Timothy F. Harding, "Dependency, Nationalism and
the State in Latin America," Latin American Perspectives, (1976) 4:3-11.
15. For example, David Rockefeller, "Multinationals Under Seige,"
Atlantic Community Quarterly (1975) 13:312-322.
K. A. Wittfogel's Marxist Studies on China (1926-1939)
by Ulrich Vogel*
K. A. Wittfogel is one of the most controversial figures in
the field of modern Chinese studies. In the early 1950s he
established himself as the leading figure in the academic section
of the Cold War. Highlights of his "fight for the Free World"
were the publication of "Oriental Despotism" in 1958 and the
controversy with Benjamin Schwartz over the "Legend of
Maoism" in the opening issue of China Quarterly in 1960.
Wittfogel was a renegade, given to apocalyptic battle-cries
against real or supposed "communist" studies and theories. He
claimed to be the only one in his field who by personal experi
ence knew the communist strategies and tactics and their sub
versive intentions.
But this is only one side of Karl Wittffogel and his work.
When I read his pre-war Marxist writings during my own studies
of the structure of Chinese society and the Asiatic mode of
production, my understanding of China was highly influenced
by his writings.
At that time several years ago I realized that
due to the specific historical circumstances of the twenties and
thirties in Germany and Europe those studies remained totally
neglected. That they were not "rediscovered" after the war
probably was the intention of their author, who had changed
sides and taken a harsh stand against all Marxist ideas, including
his own previous position.
Furthermore the neglect of his studies today can partly be
attributed to the fact that most of them are only available in
scattered publications of older journals on the dusty shelves of
libraries, and that except for three articles, which were origi
nally published in English, none of them was ever translated
from German into the lingua franca of sciences.
To bring attention to the historical and political back
ground of Wittfogel' s Marxist studies, I do not intend to make a
full academic revaluation of them,3 but rather to present an
annotated bibliography, stressing what I think are essential
ideas which every serious student of modem Chinese affairs can
get from Wittfogel's writings.
* This is a revised version of an essay that appeared in the Tsukuba Journal of
Sociology, Volume 3, No. I, March 1978. Printed with pennission.
K. A. Wittfogel, born in 1896 in Woltersdorf (Lower
Saxon) studies at the universities of Leipzig, Berlin, and Frank
furt. He joined the radical USPD (Independent Social-Demo
crats) in 1918 and became a member of the KPD (Communist
Party) after its unification with the majority of the USPD in
1920. As a well-known party-activist he wrote numerous arti
cles for the national and international revolutionary working
class press. Besides his political and scientific writings he was
author of several plays and stories. He was a candidate for the
Reichstag several times for the KPD, lastly in the famous
December 1932 election which paved the way for Hitler's rise to
His first scientific publications were centered on the prob
lem of bourgeois history and science (since 1922). "Marxis
tische Arbeiterschulung" (Marxist Workers-Education) in three
volumes. His first book on China was published in 1926, but
according to himself
he had been interested in Chinese studies
as early as 1919. From 1926 his scientific-political interests
became more and more engaged with Chinese affairs, yet he
continued to write about many other subjects. Although it is
unclear if Wittfogel completed a full academic education in
Chinese, he spoke of himself as a social scientist and got his
Ph.D. in the field of economics (Volkswirtschaft). He was a
member for some time of the Far Eastern Seminar in Leipzig,
Frankfurt, and Berlin. 5
In 1925 Wittfogel joined the Institute of Social Research in
He had been close with its founders from as early as
1922 when he participated (together with such renowned
Marxists as George Lukacs, Karl Korsch, Fukumoto and others)
in the "Erste Marxistische Arbeitswoche" (First Marxist
World-Week) in llmenau, Thuringia, which was a first step
toward the foundation of the Institute.
The Institute was the
first Marxist research organization in the generally conservative
atmosphere of German academic and university life during the
Weimar Republic. Under its first director Carl Grunberg its
research approach was orthodox Marxist and although it was not
directly affiliated with one of the radical left-wing parties, it
nevertheless intended that its research should contribute to the
struggle for socialism. ..
When Max Horkheimer succeeded Grunberg as director in
1931, the well-known Frankfurt School of Sociology, or Criti
cal Theory, originated and developed. Wittfogel did not take
part in this development and his integration into the Institute's
leading circle was weak. However, after his release from
Hitler's concentration camps in 1933 most of his essays were
published in the Institute's journal and he contributed a chapter
to the collective study on "Authority and Family." Moreover
his field research in China (after 1935) was sponsored partly by
the Institute's funds.
The value of Wittfogel' s research on China is twofold: his
studies are among the first attempts in the West to analyze the
social and economic reality of this country; and they contain the
most explicit and advanced utilization of the Marxian concept of
the Asiatic mode of production.
The traditional study of China, especially that of academic
sinology, concentrated on philological topics and methods.
Studies of the empirical reality of China, of its land and people,
had only been undertaken by persons from outside the field, by
missionaries, geographers, economists, or social scientists. As
Wittfogel often stated, the problem was not one of sources.
With its tradition of scripts and written language, Ghina pos
sessed a rich historical material. The problem was one of scien
tific and historical political interest in the West. With the en
forced integration of China into the world-widecapitalist system
at the tum of the century, more concrete knowledge of the
country became urgent. In the analyses of the international
revolutionary movement, China had played only a marginal
role. Since Marx' and Engels' writings on 'Asiatic' societies
(India and China), no further scientific research based on a
Marxist approach had been undertaken. When, after the Russian
Revolution in 1917 and the outbreak of the anti-imperialist

movement in China in 1919, the chance arose to integrate China
into a world-wide struggle against capitalism and imperialism,
knowledge of Chinese society was still very inadequate. The
scientific basis of the Comintern's policy in China was ex
tremely limited and controversial. Due to the lack of any
Marxist tradition in China itself, the early efforts were done by
foreigners-much to the disadvantage of those studies as Witt
fogel noted in his writings.
The general frame of analysis for countries like China was
that they were at the beginning of a bourgeois-capitalist de
velopment, simultaneously initiated and blocked by the superior
forces of production of the advanced capitalist nations. Anti
imperialist struggle was therefore the basis for any further

development of the economy and of independent nationhood.
The proletariat in the capitalist metropoles should unite with the
anti-imperialist, nationalist movements in the oppressed col
onies. Logically the Comintern strategy concentrated on the
modem elements of the Chinese society, on the workers, bour
geoisie and radical youth. Although it was frequently reiterated
that the huge peasant masses were the backbone of any radical

change in China, knowledge of the concrete peasant life was
scarce and political efforts to organize their rebellion were seen
as being of secondary importance. The shortcomings of this
Comintern theory and policy remained hidden as long as there
was some justification for the expectation that world-revolution
was imminent and as long as the national-revolutionary move
ment was on the rise.
There had of course been some criticism within the Comin
tern of this China policy. However it was based on the same
theoretical assumptions but with an emphasis of different ele
ments (e.g., the importance of the left-wing in the Guomin
dang). The main fault of the Comintern line proved to be the
attempt to draw parallels between Chinese development and
certain stages in West European history (e.g., feudalism). Polit
ical activities were concentrated mainly on the rather weak
proletariat or the ambivalent "national" bourgeoisie, neglect
ing the completely different historical milieu of Chinese soci
ety. Only the theoretical concept of the Asiatic mode of produc
tion seemed to combine an analysis of the peculiar Chinese
history and society with the need for a common international
concept of the revolutionary struggle. But the concept of the
Asiatic mode was never valued very much in the Comintern's
ranks. Even when in 1925 Marx and Engels' writings on China
(and India) were again made public by the effort of the Marx
Engels Archives in Moscow, they did not influence the Comin
term theory significantly. It was only after the tragic defeat of
the social revolution in China in 1927 that the concept of the
Asiatic mode became the basis for criticism of the Comintern
line. But this development and attempts to apply the Asiatic
mode to the Soviet situation in the late twenties and thereby
denounce authoritarian state-power as a revival of oriental de
spotism were the main reasons why the Soviet state in 1931
declared that the" Asiatic mode of production" was a danger
ous theory. 10 Ever since that time Soviet and Chinese Marxists
have rejected and attacked the Asiatic mode as an anti-Marxist
Although the concept of the Asiatic mode or theories which
resemble it were used by notorious anti-Soviet, anti-China
Marxist and non-Marxist critics, there has nevertheless been a
Marxist tradition which is free of such attitudes. Wittfogel in the
twenties and thirties (and to a certain degree Eugen Varga) are
its main representatives. When Wittfogel started to use the
concept of the Asiatic mode in 1926 (see item No. I below), II
he looked at first to pay superficial lip-service to Marxist
orthodoxy. In the same year he spoke only vaguely of "some
genial remarks" (No.2) of Marx and Engels concerning Asia.
But the more he studied Chinese production and its society the
more he became convinced of the basic and important differ
ences in the Eastern and Western societal development, making
any kind of direct analogy fruitless and misleading. He noted
that the traditional core of Marxism has been the critique of
political economy (capitalism), followed after 1917 with the
study and construction of a theory of socialist production. How
ever he insisted that the different societal histories in the East
made necessary a third, equally important theory of "Asiatic"
Wittfogel saw the basic difference in social development
stemming from a totally different natural environment, espe
cially in the peculiar thermo-hydraulic conditions of Chinese
agriculture with its systems of irrigation, water-control, and
minute agriculture. He outlined this concept of the dialectical
relationship between nature and society in two theoretical es
says (Nos. 17 and 18) before he started his' main China study
"Wirtschaft und Gessellschaft." Wittfogel never did develop a
complete analysis of Chinese society based on the concept ofthe
Asiatic mode of production, but his studies are the only ones
which really try to make full use of Marx and Engels' concept,
filling it with the concrete material of his intensive China re
search and thereby elaborating its understanding. It is obvious
today that the Asiatic mode is not the most scientific theory on
China. Its contradictions and inner problematic have often been
noted. Nevertheless Wittfogel's contribution to the analysis of
the forces of production (No.8) and his concept of social
relations (No. 13) are still unsurpassed in Marxist literature.
They are in my opinion the starting point for any thorough
understanding of Chinese society which does not want to negate
the important differences between China and Europe. The ana
lytical aim is not to confront East and West but to get an
adequate understanding of the complex developments and
struggles of classes and people in different societal milieus,
different in forms and strategies but directed to the common goal
of an emancipated society.
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Bibliography of K. A. Wittfogel's
works on China 192&-1939
I. Das erwachende China (Awakening China) Wien: Agis
Verlag, 1926 (170 pages).
Wittfogel's first book on China was his one and only
"proletarian style" work. Written after the giant strike move
ment of the Shanghai and Hong Kong workers after the 30th of
May 1925 incident, it is illustrative of the best tradition of
revolutionary working-class agitational and educational mate
rials. Its emphatical, polemical, and sometimes triumphant
style, based on the conviction of the world-revolution in prog
ress, did not intend to please the standards of academic publica
tions but rather to educate and enlighten workers, to help them
understand the mysterious and unknown struggle in China, and
to evoke their sympathy with the national-revolutionary
It is, as far as I know, the first Western revolutionary
Marxist analysis and interpretation of China's social, economic,
and political history. By trying to apply the concept of Historical
Materialism, Wittfogel not only wanted to prove the validity of
scientific socialism, but, by analyzing the past and present, he
tried to forecast the future development of the revolution. Witt
fogel started by polemically correcting some absurd "western"
ideas about the "wild yellows" and emphasized the political
significance of the anti -imperialist movement for the weakening
of international capitalism. The larger part of his work contains
an historical outline of class struggle and exploitation, of the
aims and means of colonialist penetration since the middle ofthe
19th century (with special reference to the case of the German
empire), and of the awakening of China in a national revolution
under Sun Vat-Sen. His survey of the material conditions of the
working class, of its trade-union organization, and its class
struggle concludes with the events of 1925. The rising tide of the
national revolution, the radicalization and polarization of the
Guomindang as the leading organization of the anti-imperialist
struggle, and the different class and international interests in the
struggle for national independence and sovereignty are the items
of the second half of Wittfogel 's essay.
Wittfogel's first attempt to outline a frame of analysis for
the social history of China is marked by some peculiar contra
dictions. He tries to reconcile Chinese history with a dogmatic
"unilinear" interpretation of historical evolution. His reference
to Marx/Engels' studies on China (the concept of the Asiatic
mode of production especially) is merely superficial, because
Wittfogel saw the development in China roughly following the
pattern of Western societies. He claimed some universal identi
ties in societal evolution. According to him China departed from
the universal pattern in its transition from feudalism to capital
ism only with the creation of a centralized "Wasserbau
Burokratie" (bureaucracy based on water-works). This type of
society prevailed for the last 2000 years. With its decline and the
colonial penetration, modern capitalistic elements developed in
the Chinese economic structure.
The apparent contradiction-the identity of Chinese and
European development on the one hand, and the notion of a
different societal stage during the last 2000 years on the other
hand-remained open in this text. In his future works Wittfogel
tried to solve this contradiction. He elaborated on the basic
differences of' 'oriental" and western societies and he criticized
(although not directly) the unilinear interpretation of the
Marxian theory of history .
2. "Probleme der chinesischen Wirtschaftsgeschichte"
(Problems of the Economic History of China) in Archiv fUr
SozialwissenschaJt und Sozialpolitik (A.5.S.), Vol 58:2; 1926
(45 pages).
i Published in the leading liberal social sciences periodical,
the Archiv for SozialwissenschaJt und Sozialpolitik (A.S.S.)
(Archives for Social Sciences and Social Politics), founded by
Werner Sombart, Max Weber and others, this essay has to be
seen as a further attempt to elborate the peculiar method and
research of his own study on the economy and society in China.
The same is true for the "Voraussetzungen ... " (1929, No.6)
and to a lesser degree for "Die Grundlagen ... " (1930, No.7).
Wittfogel's essay is organized as a review of a book by
Mabel Lee The Economic History ofChina, published
in 1921, which claimed to be the first modern analysis of the
Chinese economy based on a large collection of new sources.
Wittfogel conceded that despite those "occasional genial re
marks" by Marx and Engels on the Asiatic economic order and
Max Weber's study in the "Sociology of Religion," no pro
found analysis of the Chinese economy had yet been written. He
criticized Ms. Lee for failing to fulfill her ambitious goal.
Especially he mentioned her neglect of certain valuable sources
and materials and her general lack of any methodological
Using some of her materials he then embarked on an
outline of an economic history of China, discussing briefly the
stages of primitive communism and the feudal period, dealing
with the 2000 years of the "Bauern- und Beamtenstaat" (state
of the peasants and civil-servants). He rejected the characteriza
tion of a' 'stagnation" in this period, but he too spoke of a stable
political and economic order. In the second part of his essay he
touched upon aspects of the production, mainly ag
ricultural production, the agrarian crisis and their solution as'
well as tendencies of landownership.
1 3. Introduction to Sun Vat-Sen: Aufzeichnungen eines
Revolutionars (Notes of a Revolutionary) Leipzig, 1927 (ca.
150 pages).
For this publication of Sun Yat-Sen's writings, the founder
and leading figure of the Guomindang who had died in March
1925, Wittfogel wrote a summary of the political history of the
national revolution and the politics of Sun Vat-Sen. For Witt
fogel an understanding of Sun Yat-Sen's work was crucial for
the revolutionary working-class movement because the bloody
split in the ranks of the national revolution in China by Jiang
Jieshi's (Chiang K'ai-shek) coup d'etat from April 1927 left the
legacy of the "father" of the national revolution open to both
sides. Wittfogel underlined that Sun, even in his most radical
period, had never been a Marxist or communist revolutionary.
Nevertheless he had had a deep understanding for the necessities
I of the struggle for national freedom and for the necessary
change in the livelihood of the laboring masses which he ex
pressed in his famous "Three Principles of the People" and in
his advocation of a political coalition with the Soviet Union and
the Chinese Communist Party.
The tradition and legacy of Sun Yat-sen's politics is, ac
cording to Wittfogel, not inherited by the "traitor" Jiang Jieshi
but is rather represented by Song Qingling, Sun Yat-sen's
widow. Her open letter, denouncing Jiang as a counter
revolutionary and anti-Sun-Yat-senist was printed as an ap
pendix to this book.
4. Schanghai-Kanton, Berlin, 1927 (28 pages)
5. "Streikkampfe in Schanghai" (Strikes in Shanghai) in Die
Kommunistische Intemationale, Heft 41 (October).
Both of these articles were for the revolutionary press in
1927, written shortly after the Shanghai coup d' etat. NO.4 is a
pamphlet by the KPD that summarized the events of the year and
showed that the workers of Shanghai and Canton were far from
being permanently defeated. No. 5, only contribu
tion to the organ of the Communist International on China, had
roughly the same intention: to inform about recent class strug
gles, indicating that the bloody repression would not be able to
pacify the worker's rebellion. Wittfogel's appearance in the
main periodical of the Comintern (and the absence of the es
tablished China-interpreters like Heller or Radek) can be taken
as an indication that there were still some discussions inside the
Comintern about the interpretation of the defeat of the national
revolution and the Comintern strategy. But it also proves that
Wittfogel, although probably one of the best-informed China
specialists in the revolutionary movement, had never been close
with the circle of the official Comintern China interpreters.
6. "Voraussetzungen und Grundelemente der chinesischen
Landwirtschaft" (Preconditions and Basic Elements of Chi
nese Agriculture) in A.S. S., Vol. 61, 1929 (40 pages)
Again published in the Sombart Weber Archiv (A.S.S.),
this essay demolished Wilhelm Wagner's book "Die chine
sische Landwirtschaft," published in 1926. Wittfogel gave a
most detailed review of this 700-page study, claiming with
vigor and bitterness that Wagner had no understanding at all of
the structure of the Chinese production system, that he was
theoretically and methodologically naive, and relying largely on
other people's observations, instead of doing his own field
research. Last but not least he criticized Wagner's research for
having been directly financed by the German Nitrogen Trust and
the German Potash Trust. Beyond this critique he developed an
outline of the important elements of Chinese agriculture (cli
mate, soil, irrigation, and water-control), a concentrated ver
sion of his own great study of 193 I.
7. "Die Grundlagen der chinesischen Arbeiterbewegung"
(The Basis of the Chinese Working-Class Movement) in Archiv
fur die Geschichte des Sozialismus und der Arbeiterbewegung.
15, 1930 (30 pages)
Published in the periodical of the Institute of Social Re
search in Frankfurt, the Archiv fiir die Geschichte des Sozial
ismus und der Arbeiterbewegung (Archives for the History of
Socialism and the Working-Class Movement), also known as
the "Grunberg-Archiv" (named after its publisher, the director
of the Institute, Carl Grunberg), this article is of special interest
because it contained for the first and only time political conclu
sions opposing those of the official Comintern interpretation of
China. According to Wittfogel, an analysis of the Chinese
working class was only possible when one understood the main
elements and peculiarities of the general system of production,
which for the Chinese case meant the agrarian mode of produc
tion. The necessity of irrigation and water-control works for the
agricultural process and the existence of the "Wasserbau
Biirokratie" as the dominating class (as Wittfogel summarized
the Marx-Engels' view of the "Asiatic" order) had blocked the
development of modem industrial capitalism. The absence of a
feudal legacy in the rise of the capitalist elements was responsi
ble for some peculiarities in the situation of the Chinese
working-class. Most important was the lack of even minimal
formal legal protection. The personal despotism of Chinese
factory owners and war-lords, for whom it was no legal problem
to behead the negotiating delegation of strikers, subjected the
working-class to a dual form of despotism: that of the traditional
.. Asiatic" milieu and that of the modem factory system. Fur
thermore, the artificial introduction of modem capitalism from
"above" and "outside" the "Asiatic-despotic" order pro
duced an additional alienation between the economic develop
ment and the laboring masses. The weak Chinese bourgeoisie
directed the protest of the workers to the sector of foreign
capitalists, who were better off and superior in the means of
exploitation, thus contributing to the anti-imperialist stand of
the Chinese working-class. On the other hand, the workers did
gain some advantages from the "Asiatic-despotic" milieu too.
It had not destroyed the links between the villages and the cities,
between peasants and workers in the same way as capitalism had
done in the West. Hence workers and peasants could support
each other mutually, thus strengthening the power of rebeIlion.
Wittfogel did not draw any concrete political conclusions
from his analysis, nor did he openly discuss the worker's policy
of the revolutionary movement in 1927. But he attacked Karl
Radek and others for their neglect and ignorance of the differ
ences between the Chinese and West European development
and for having constructed some superficial "feudal" similar
ities without regard to the different socio-economic totality. He
also rejected Radek's polemic against an "Asiatic" concept,
stressing that this had been the original concept of Marx and
The second half of this essay was a description of the
conditions of the every-day situation of the male-, female-, and
child-workers in the factories and outside. This part illuminated
all aspects of the early capitalist exploitation of the Chinese
As Wittfogel stated years later (Oriental Despotism,
German edition, 1962, p. 29), by 1930 he faced difficulties
getting his essays published in the international communist
press despite the fact that he did not take the obvious differences
of opinion on China policy as a crucial point in his political
position. He remained an active member of the Communist
Party of Germany until 1933.
8. Wirtschaft und GeseUschaft Chinas (China's Social Econ
omy) Leipzig, 1931 (704 pages)
Wittfogel's magnum opus on China was published in the
series of the Institute of Social Research in Frankfurt. The title
continues: Versuch der wissenchaftlichen Analyse einer grossen
asiatischen Agrargesellschaft-Erster Teil: Produktivkriifte,
Produktions- und Zirkulationsprozess (Attempt of a scientific
analysis of a huge Asian agrarian society-part one: forces of
production, process of production and circulation). Its first
section on the "system of the forces of production in China,
historical perspective" was presented to the University of
Frankfurt as his Ph. D. thesis. This book has been translated only
into Russian and Japanese.
The intention and aim of his study was ambitious: to find
out the laws of life (lebensgesetze) of the economic and social
basis of present-day China in order to understand the laws of the
"world historical crisis of transition" and to indicate the direc
tion of its solution. Wittfogel wanted to make full use of the
concept of Historical Materialism which, according to him, had
been distorted by many Marxists. As the core of his analysis he
used the category of the forces of production with special
reference to the natural forces. He argued that the neglect by
Marxists of the category "mode of production" led to the
unwarranted dismissal of the concept of the Asiatic mode of
Jede sozialokonomische Untersuchung dieser Agrargesell
schaften, die sich nicht dem MAR Xschen Kernbegriff der
asiatischen Produktionsweise zu eigen macht, ist zur Un
fruchtbarkeit verurteilt." (VII/). Every socio-economic in
vestigation of those (Wittfogel refers to China and India;
V. V.I agrarian societies which is not based on the central
notion of the Asiatic mode of production by Marx remains
In the planned second part of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft
Chinas he intended to deal with the relations of production,
especially the class structure, the state and ideology. He closed
his preface emphatically with a modification of Marx's eleventh
thesis against Feuerbach: bourgeois China research is satisfied
to interpret China; Marxian research intends to change the
Chinese world.
In giving a full survey of the contents of Wittfogel's main
work, I do not intend to evaluate his research at this point, 13 but
to show the precise and systematic organization of his argument
of the Asiatic mode of production in China. The study contains
two sections. The first one deals with the "system of forces of
production in China-historical perspective" and is divided
into two chapters. The first chapter, "the natural forces of
production," was a study of the anthropological basis (race), of
the soil, the climate (especially of the important thermo
hydraulic conditions), and of the raw materials of the industrial
process. The second chapter concentrated on "the societal
forces of production, " the organization of the labor process, the
qualification and character of the labor force and the means of
The second section studied "the basic features of the profound differences they identified between eastern and west
Chinese economic process." Its first chapter on "the agrarian
process of production" was probably the central one because it
discussed the proportion and influence of the irrigation and
water-control system in China, a matter which was decisive for
'j his (and the Marxian) theory of the Asiatic mode of production.
It further contained material on fertilizers, the combination of
plants as well as on minute agriculture and the scale of the
! production units. Moreover it included aspects of the primary
agrarian relations of production, or rent, tenure, ownership and
the question of the existence of slavery.
The second chapter on "the state as the integrating organ of
the agrarian production in China" pursued the analysis of the
function of the waterworks in the field of public works, dis
cussing the controversial problem of the necessity of state
activities. It also described the development of astronomy in the
process of production. Chapter three, "agriculture in a wider
meaning," added studies on animal and fishbreeding and wood
cultivation. The fourth chapter dealt with "the industrial side of
the pre-capitalist Chinese process of production, " the industrial
f demand of the agrarian village, the historical development and
the different sectors and forms of industry (manufacture, handi
craft, and house industry), adding some ideas on the develop
ment of natural sciences in China. The last (fifth) chapter was
centered on the "economic function of transport, trade, and
interest capital in 'Asiatic' China" analyzing their importance
in the development of elements of the capitalist mode of produc
tion within the Asiatic system. The study has one appendix, a
survey of the totality of the economic process, and it contains a
list of maps and pictures, but, unfortunately no bibliography.
I found the most fascinating aspect of this investigation to
be the systematic reconstruction of the basic conditions and
elements of agrarian production, starting from the very general
conditions to the most detailed aspects. More than in any other
study of the same subject one can get a concrete knowledge of
production in Chinese agriculture, of its inner relations and of
the consequences for the social organization of the country.
Although it is quite possible that some of Wittfogel' s data are
outdated today and others are obviously controversial, it pre
sents a lasting contribution to the study of China and the Asiatic
mode of production. More recent discussions of the Asiatic
mode of production have remained at the level of theory,
thereby neglecting the concrete study of the actual elements of
9. Hegal uber China" (Hegel on China) in Unter dem Banner
des Marxismus, Vol. V, 1931 (16 pages)
Published in the memorial volume of the centennial of
Hegel's death in the periodical Unter dem Banner des Marxis
mus, a theoretical journal of the Communist International, the
essay was Wittfogel' s last contribution to the periodicals of the
international communist movement on China. In evaluating
Hegel's numerous sketches on China, especially in his "Philos
ophy of History," Wittfogel's main intention was not to criti
cize Hegel's idealistic misunderstandings of the Chinese im
perial society. He emphasized the continuity between Hegel and
Marx in regard to a specific "Oriental" view of China and the
ern development. The materialistic dialectical critique of
Hegel's view of China was for him the theory of the Asiatic
mode of production.
It remains inexplicable why Wittfogel's last strong defense
of the original Marxian concept of the Asiatic mode of produc
tion was published in 1931 in a journal close to the Comintern.
At that time this concept was officially attacked and "smashed"
for the alleged' 'political danger" it posed to Soviet orthodoxy.
10. Review of Wegner, China in A.A.S., Vol. 66, 1931 (4
Published in the Sombart Weber Archiv (A.s.S.) this short
book review contains a harsh critique of Wegner's work.
Wegner, a geographer of the Richthofen school, was criticized
for neglecting important sources, as well as for his superficial
collection of data and biographical notes without the slightest
understanding of the inner relations of the Chinese social and
economic life. Wegner did not even mention the most striking
fact: the rebellion of the peasant masses.
II. "The Foundation and Stages of Chinese Economic
History" in ZeitschriJt fur SozialJorschung (ZjS) , Vol. IV,
1935 (35 pages)
This essay was published in the ZeitschriJt for SozialJors
chun.S (ZjS) (Journal of Social Research), the successor of the
"Grunberg-Archiv," edited by the new director of the Institute
of Social Research, Max Horkheimer. In an introductory note, it
was stated that Wittfogel has embarked for field research to
China to collect material for the second part of Wirtschaft und
Gesellschaft Chinas. The essay presented an outline of his
proposed study.
Wittfogel stressed the importance of research on China. He
emphasized that it was necessary to develop a theory for the
huge complex of non-capitalist" Asiatic" societies like China,
India, Egypt or the Inca empire. Such a theory should match the
studies of the capitalist mode of production and of the soviet
form in Russia. While discussing recently found sources and
reviewing older materials, he outlined the history of the Chinese
economy as it was transformed from feudalism to the" Asiatic"
order. The immanent development of the latter, its challenge by
commodity production and industrial forces, characterized the
most recent history. At the end Wittfogel mentioned that the
Japanese economy had some elements of the "Asiatic" type
(irrigation) too, but that its strong feudal basis provided a closer
link to the capitalist development than in the Chinese case.
12. "Wirtschaftsgeschichtliche Grundlagen der Entwick
lung der Familienautoritat, Kapitel B, III, 3: Koordinier
ung aller autoritatssteigernden Krafte: China" (The
historical-economic Foundation of the Development of Family
Authority, Chapter B, III, 3: Coordination of all the authority
improving factors forces: China) inZjS, Vol. IV, 1936 (7 pages)
Published as part of the large study ofthe Institute of Social
Research on "Authority and Family" Wittfogel characterized
the Chinese family system as an extreme example of the
authoritarian type. All the family members, especially the fe
male ones, are totally subjected to the will of the unchallenged
private-despotic power of the father. The supreme role of the
adult male was the result of his importance in minute agricul
ture, where experience and individual skill were the most re
quired features. His economic importance was enforced socially
by Confucianist ideology and the organization of the state,
which made the father the political and legal representative of
state power within the family. The cult worship of the ancestors
prolonged this superior position even after the father had died. A
radical change from family despotism, which had such strong
roots in the" Asiatic" type of economy, could only be achieved
with the construction of a new social order.
13. "Die Theorie der orientalischen Gesellschaft" (The
Theory of Oriental Society) in ZjS, Vol. VII, 1938 (32 pages)
For Wittfogel China was still a "fresh" complex. The
validity of the (Marxian) methodology of the mode of produc
tion in the analysis of societies had yet to be proven. Whereas
for the West a theory may deal mainly with the problem of
"development," an analytical theory for China and similar
societies has to center on the problem of "stagnation." World
history combines those two forms of societal existence.
To indicate his growing conviction in the fundamental
difference between East and West he now for the first time
distinguished between a "primitive" and a "developed" stage
of oriental society. His old scheme-primitive community,
feudalism, "asiatic" society-bore more of the traces of the
pattern of western societies. The foundations of oriental society
were based upon the peculiar natural conditions of the agrarian
production and its specific structure was intensifying' with the
growth of the forces of production and the rising contradictions
of the social elements. The' 'pure type" of the oriental society
could be found in the original Inca empire, while the developed
type was represented by China, India, Egypt, or Babylonia.
The stability and thereby the stagnation of the oriental
society was caused by the superior productivity of the intensive
structure of agriculture and the socio-political frame of domina
tion (economic function of the state). The periodic agrarian
crisis was circular because the peasants and the rulers basically
shared an interest in the stability of the existing system of
production and its defense against "modem" capitalist ele
ments. The struggle between peasants and the state was one over
the rate of exploitation, not over exploitation itself.
14. "Bericht iiber eine grossere Untersuchung der 50
zialokonomischen Struktur Chinas," in ZjS, Vol. VII, 1938
(IO pages)
_IS. "A Large-Scale Investigation of China's Socio
Economic Structure" in Pacific Affairs, March 1938 (14
16. New Light on Chinese Society, New York: JPR, 1938 (41
Those three reports dealt with Wittfogel's research project
in China, which was sponsored by the Institute of Social Re
search and the Institute of Pacific Relations. Essay No. 14
appeared in the ZjS as a kind of German translation of No. 15,
which was printed in Pacific Affairs. No. 16 is a separate
publication by the JPR.
Wittfogel's research since 1935 had concentrated on the
family structure, on the examination system, and on nearly
every other aspect of the social-economic life and history, for
which they could collect material. Wittfogel mentioned several
times the assistance of his wife Olga Lang Wittfogel, the author
of "The Chinese Family and Society" (1946) for which he
wrote a short introduction. He gave an impressive account of the
amount of material his team collected in comparison to Ms. Lee
(see No.2) and announced a comprehensive socio-economic
history of "oriental" China as a result of his research and in
revision of his former plan for a second part of "Wirtschaft und
Gesellschaft Chinas. "
17. The Society of Prehistoric China in ZjS, Vol. VIII,
1939 (49 pages)
This essay was announced by Max Horkheimer as the first
chapter of a book on the social history of China, which would be
published by Oxford University Press within a year. Unfortu
nately this project never materialized. Using anthropological
and archeological materials, this text dealt only with the very
ancient history of China's social life. It did not contain any new
idea of a general theory of the" Asiatic" China.
18. Geopolitik, Geographischer Materialismus und Marx
ismus (Geopolitics, Geographical Materialism, and Marxism
in Unter des Marxismus, No.3, Heftel, 4 und 5, 1929 (109
19. "Die natiirlichen U rsachen der Wirtschaftsgeschichte"
(The Natural Causes of Economic History) in A.S.S. Vol. 67,
1932 (77 pages)
In both these essays Wittfogel outlined his fundamental
theoretical understanding of the relationship between nature and
society in regard to the dynamics and the direction of historical
evolution. These essays provide the general frame of his China
studies. 14
In "Geopolitik ... " the argumentation was organized as
a critique of the latest fashion of bourgeois science-geo
politics-and of left attempts (by "socialdemocrats") to com
plete the Marxian system with some geographical considera
tions. In "Die naturlichen Ursachen ..." Wittfogel sketched
some historical developments of traditional and modem soci
eties, emphasizing the important "natural causes" for the his
torical peculiarities (the fall of the East Roman empire, the
stagnation of oriental agrarian societies, or the relative back
wardness of French industrial capitalism).
On the theoretical level his principal argumentation states
that, with the exception of Plekhanov and Lenin, the original
concept of Historical Materialism had been distorted and misun
derstood by most other Marxists. The emphasis of Marx and
Engels on the very material basis of all human production, on
the central importance of the category of the mode of production
and productive forces had been . 'forgotten" in an attempt to
criticize theories which totally neglected human activity as a
vital element for the development of society. Those tendencies
in Marxism went so far as to propose-in the writings of
Lukacs-that nature itself will be subjected to the category of
"Vergesellschaftung" (being socialized), that humans can get
rid of the material conditions of life altogether and "conquer"
nature. For Wittfogel nature had always been a most important
factor in the development of humans and its importance, far
from diminishing, was growing. It was not.only humans whose
condition and ability were essentially set by their natural being;
it was the whole complex of natural resources and the natural
means of production-of the soil, climate, thermo-hydraulic
conditions, of geographical location and so forth-which had
determined the direction and the speed of the historical process
in different parts of the world.
Wittfogel saw the natural conditions as the passive and the
human activity as the active element in the evolution process.
Although there was no progress without the combined efforts of
human labor, the human praxis was only able to utilize and to
actualize what the passive elements had provided. As societal
labor was essential for even the most primiti ve agrarian produc
tion, it was the whole ensemble of the natural conditions which
set the boundaries and the potentials for a people's activities. In
the last instance people could not escape from the material
surrounding, the "realm of necessity" could not really be
overcome. It could be modified or transformed, but it would not
vanish. It would only widen. But Wittfogel was not satisfied
with the dialectical relationship of nature and human activity,
with the active and passive elements in the development of
stages of society. He wanted to get a final answer to the philo
sophical question as to which of the two sides was the primary
cause for progress or stagnation. By giving the pole position to
nature, he himself came close to a mechanical understanding of
social evolution-a position which he had criticized before. 15*
I. For a historical survey of the discussion of' 'Oriental Despotism." see
G. Sofri. Uber Asiatische Produktionsweise (Frankfurt: 1972) p. 128 tT. or B.
Hindess and P. Q. Hirst, PreCapitalist Modes ofProduction (London: 1975) p.
207 fl'.
2. Ulrich Vogel, Zur Theorie der chinesischen Revolution (Frankfurt:
1974). In the print a special chapter on WiUfogel, which is part of the original
thesis, is not included.
3. Perhaps this has been done by the work of G. L. Ulmen. The Science
of Society; Toward an Understanding of the Life and Work of Karl August
Wittfogel (The Hague: 1977). Unfortunately I could not find a copy as this was
written. I hope that it provides some deeper insights into the political and
scientific aspects of the "early" Wittfogel.
4. W ittfogel. Das erwachende China (Wien: Agis-Verlag, 1926) p. 159.
5. Wittfogel, Ibid., p. 159; 1939, "A Large-Scale ... ", p. 8lf(see item
6. For Wittfogel's relation with the Institute see Martin Jay, The Dialecti
cal Imagination; A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social
Research. 1923- 1950 (Boston: Little Brown, 1973).
7. Jay. M. Ibid .. p. 5.
8. Ulrich Vogel. "Politik und Gesellschaft im vorrevolutionaren China.
Ph.D. thesis. Frankfurt, (unpub!.). 1975.
9. Wittfogel. op. cit. p. 7.
10. cf. Sofri. op. cit. 122 ff, Vogel, 1974. p. 53 ff.
II. The numbers in brackets refer to the bibliography.
12. The titles are listed chronologically, except for the two theoretical
essays (No. 18 and 19). which were written between 1929/30 (although no. 19
was published only in 1932). because they did elaborate his theory with very
broad historical and geographical materials.
I do not include Wittfogel's contributions on China for the KPD press (i.e.
Die Rate Fahne), for I did not research them. It could be quite interesting to
compare his more scientific with his direct political writings, especially if one
could trace some political conclusions in them which were generally left out of
the above mentioned works.
13. I have tried to do this to a certain extent in the second part of "Zur
Theorie der chinesischen Revolution" where I relied mostly on Wittfogel's
material in trying to discuss the imperial Chinese society, its production and its
classes for an evaluation of the legacy of the revolutionary process in the last 100
14. Nos. 18 and 19 are reprinted in Marxismus und Wirtschaftsgeschichte
(Frankfurt: lunius-Drucke. 1970).
15. From this final position there is a direct theoretical consistency be
tween the "early" and the "late" Wittfogel (see "Oriental Despotism," p. 35
German edition. 1962) as G. Lewnin, (Von der "asiatischen Produktion
sweise" zur "hydraulic society." Der Werdegang eine Renegaten, 1967,
Jahrbuch fur Geschichtswissenschaft. pp. 205-258) has argued in a partly
dogmatic critique, which claims in the orthodox GDR-fashion that Wittfogel's
whole theory was anti-Marxist from its very beginning.
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A Note on Wittfogel's Science of Society
by Tu Wei-ming*
It is not easy to understand and bring understanding to such
a controversial topic as Karl Wittfogel's interpretation of Chi
nese history. For one thing, Wittfogel has been inextricably
knotted with loaded concepts such as the "Asian mode of
production" and "Oriental Despotism." Even without any
reference to his 1951 testimony before the McCarran Commit
tee, the mention of his name is likely to evoke impassioned
negative responses in the Sinological world. Yet, undeniably,
Wittfogel continues to fascinate students of Chinese history,
especially those who are interested in approaching China, in the
words of Benjamin Nelson, from a broad comparative civiliza
tional perspective.
It is perhaps not entirely wrong to characterize Wittfogel as
an anti-Communist historian whose political conviction has led
him to theoretically group China and Russia together as out
standing manifestations of "Oriental Despotism." Nor is it
farfetched to suggest that his view on the "Asian mode of
production" has been greatly colored by his ideologicalstruggle
with the Stalinists in explaining the correct line of Marxian
historiography.Indeed, his refusal to accept"Maoism" as a
creati ve appropriation of Marxist and Leninist insights in the
Chinese revolutionary context seems indicative of the tena
ciousness with which he has held his political and ideological
However, if we take Wittfogel seriously, it is not simply
because he has had strong opinions. We are certainly capable of
ignoring numerous committed ideologists and politicians by
brushing them aside as marginal to the scholarly community. It
must be that he has something important and intriguing to say
that prompts us to study him. Vogel tells us thllt he "discovered
the 'early' Wittfogel" during his own studies of the structure of
Chinese society and he fully acknowledges his indebtedness to
the early Wittfogel for helping him to understand China. Even
though he admitted that Wittfogel's analysis of Chinese society
based on the "Asian mode of production" (AMP) is flawed
with contradictions and inner problematic, he claims that
"Wittfogel's contribution to the analysis of forces of production
and his concept of the social relations are still unsurpassed in
Marxist literature. "
I am indebted to Saundra Sturdevant and Martin Jay for their generous help in
providing me with informative sources and good advice. Needless to say, I am
solely responsible for the shortcomings of this note.
We encounter a sort of irony here. The mature Wittfogel is
discredited for his simple-minded application of the AMP to
Chinese history and the early Wittfogel is rediscovered for his
sophisticated Marxist analysis of Chinese society. This of
course is nothing new. We need only to remind ourselves that
when the young Marx was "rediscovered" in the early 1960s as
an all-encompassing existential humanist, the mature Marx
became to some of us, a one-dimensional, economic de
terminist. There is mystery in the mind. Like the "uncarved
block" in the Daoist sense, it seems to have an infinite potential
of self-expression. Is it possible that the stem-looking Wittfogel
of the 50s once possessed a fine and flexible mind?
The question itself, unfortunately, is prejudicial. There are
strong indications that Wittfogel is still intellectually alert and
acti ve. It seems that in the last six decades, he has never cased to
think, to write, and to pUblish. Since his well-known debate
with Benjamin Schwartz on "Maoism" in 1960, for example,
he has published more than thirty articles, papers and review
essays in journals such as The China Quarterly, The Russian
Review, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and
Social Sciences, The Journal ofAsian Studies and The American
Anthropologist. Now, in his eighties, his major book, Marxism,
Anarchism and the Nihilist Revolution is being published by
Harper and Rowand Vintage Books of Random House is
bringing out a paperback edition of Oriental Despotism with
Wittfogel writing a new forward.
Speaking about Oriental Despotism, Wittfogel is certainly
right in describing it as a "very disquieting" book. We do not
have to accept his explanation for its disquieting nature. Some
prominent scholars in the China field have articulated their
concerns in critical reviews. Wolfram Eberhard feared that
it might be used as a "political weapon," E.G. Pulleyblank
found it "repugnant," and S.N. Eisenstadt criticized it for its
conceptual rigidity. Yet, the intellectual response to Wittfogel 's
magnum opus was by and large positive. Edwin O. Reischauer
believed that his theories "are a major contribution to the
understanding of human history, " Clyde Kluckhohn thought it
important and highly provocative and considered it a "'must'
for all serious students of human societies, " and Peter Christian
Ludz, formerly of The Free University of Berlin and now of the
University of Munich, even compared it favorably with Marx's
Capital and Max Weber's Economy and Society. Wittfogel
must have been delighted by Ludz's review (and a similar
review by The University of Frankfurt political sociologist Iring
Fetscher), for he was actually thinking in those tenns.
Our knowledge of Wittfogel's intellectual self-definition
has been greatly enhanced by G.L. Ulmen's The Science of
Society. * This monograph-over 700 pages long-is, un
doubtedly, the most comprehensive and probably also the most
sympathetic study of Wittfogel to date. The chronological bib
liography of Wittfogel's published writings (1917-1977) alone
fills fourteen pages and Ulmen still apologizes for its incom
pleteness, "due in large part to the inaccessibility of numerous
sources" (p. 509). It seems obvious that Ulmen is among the
closest of Wittfogel' s associates and that he seriously thinks that
Master Wittfogel really stands on the shoulders of Marx and
Weber. Even if we do not share Ulmen's enthusiasm, we must
be grateful for his painstaking effort in producing so infonnative
an account of so controversial a figure.
In summarizing Wittfogel's early intellectual orientation,
Ulmen states that Wittfogel' s main concern was' 'the contradic
tion between the social roots of the modem Chinese proletariat
and their Asian milieu, on the one hand, and the role of im
perialism and the nature of a basically foreign Western indus
trial capitalism, on the other. " This, Ulmen believes, raised the
fundamental interpretive question for Wittfogel:
Asking why China did not develop independently (nicht selb
standig) to industrial capitalism-why China had remained
"Asiatic" [stagnantjfor two thousand years, Wittfogel pro
ceeded in classical Marxist fashion from an analysis of the
material conditions ofproduction-the specific relation be
tween man and nature-to an analysis ofthe social relations
of production. His new concept of the mode of production
opened the door to an examination ofthe industrial structure
of bureaucratic (total) power which he would later make in
Oriental Despotism, where his concept ofa bureaucracy as a
ruling class would serve not only for an analysis and critique
of the agrarian (' 'Asiatic" ) despotism of the past, but also
for the industrial (Communist) despotism of the present.
("Wittfogel's Science of Society," Telos, no. 24; summer
1975, 113-114.)
Ulmen's observation gives us the impression that Wittfogel's
early involvement in the study of material conditions of produc
tion as the point of departure for analyzing social relations of
production actually paved the way for his study of bureaucracy
as the central feature of Oriental Despotism. If there was a
perceptual change in Wiufogel's science of society, it was a
shift from the dominance of wealth (economy) to power (bur
eaucracy). Understandably, the subtitle of Oriental Despotism
is "a comparative study of total power."
Even with this limited exposure, the real disquieting aspect
of the Wiufogelian project, in my opinion, is not only the
rigidity with which he maintains that the AMP is a universaliz
able category and his insistence that the idea of Oriental Des
potism is applicable to contemporary China and Russia but also
*See G.L. Ulmen's The Science of Society: Toward an Understanding of the
Life and Work ofKarl August Witt/ogel (The Hague: Moutow Publishers. 1978)
the underlying "positivism" and "reductionism" in his meth
odology as a whole. We learn that his commitmentto "science"
(a kind of positivistic scientism) impelled him to remain an
"outsider" in tenns of the" Frankfurt School." Although he
was once a "core member" of the Institut fur Sozialforschung
under the directorship of Horkheimer, he never associated him
self with the works of its members. His tough-minded descrip
tive positivism may have denied him the possibility of' 'dialecti
cal imagination, " which as Martin Jay persuasively argues, is a
defining characteristic of the philosophy of the School. Witt
fogel's choice to conduct rigorous "scientific" analysis of
Chinese society as a method of searching for the roots of modem
totalitarianism also seems to have cornered him in a blind alley
of reducing a highly complex fonn of life to power relations,
with little appreciation for the rich symbolic resources which
can and should infonn us how power was actually exercised in
the Middle Kingdom.
This is hardly the place to elaborate on Wittfogel's grand
iose design or to present an adequate critique of it. I hope,
however, that the background understanding mentioned above,
crude as it is, can put his early works on Chinese history,
agriculture, economy, family, and society in a more com
prehensible light. One may choose to perceive Wittfogel as a
combination of several conflicting images and his scholarship as
an accumulation of many contradictory assertions. But the evi
dence so far suggests that his life and work is the unfolding of a
coherent, if disquieting vision. For a student ofChinese history,
it is helpful to remember that his vision, in its various stages of
refinement, seems to have influenced the works of Chi Ch'ao
ting, Wang Yu-ch'uan, Ho Tzu-ch'uan, Ch'u T'ung-tsu, and
possibly also Etienne Balazs. Furthennore, as the debate on the
AMP gathers momentum in the Soviet Union* and the discus
sion on the problem of periodization intensifies in the People's
Republic of China, ** it is reasonable to assume that the Witt
fogelian thesis will again present a challenge to some of the new
scientific materialists. *
*See Marian Sawer's "The Concept of the Asiatic Mode of Production and
Contemporary Marxism," in Varieties ofMarxism. ed .. S.Avineri (The Hague:
Martinns Nijhoff. 1977) pp.332-371.
**See Ho Tzu-ch'uan, "Han-Wei feng-ch'ien shuo." Lishih yen chiu; No. I,
South Asia and the Asiatic Mode of Production:
Some Conceptual and Empirical Problems
by Hassan N.Gardezi
The resurgence of dialectical sociology has stimulated a
renewed interest in the investigation of political and economic
developments in third world countries with the aid of Marxist
paradigms. In this connection a substantial volume of literature
has been produced recently, mostly by western scholars, on
Marx's definition of the Asiatic Mode of Production (AMP) or
its related genre, such as Oriental Despotism.
Hopefully the
revival of this interest will open up lines of investigation hitherto
ignored or inadequately developed. At the same time numerous
difficulties arise on the theoretical, empirical and ideological
levels when one attempts to explain the dynamics of change in
countries and regions of South Asia with the above mentioned
concepts in mind.
In his universalistic conception of social change, as set
forth in his earlier works such as The German Ideology and The
Communist Manifesto. Marx implied a schema of transforma
tion of society from a primitive stage of communalism to a
chronological succession of stages termed ancient society. feud
alism, capitalism and finally socialism.
The key to the under
standing of these sucessive transitions lies in the relations of
production and ensuing class struggle, the content and form of
which is accompanied by-and dialectically related to-the
historically specific modes of production. Until the early 1850s
Marx consistently adhered to this schema, drawing heavily on
evidence derived from Europe and from other parts of the world
known to European ethnologists. But from this period onwards
when he began a serious study of Asiatic societies, particularly
India, he found himself confronted with certain exceptional
developments which could not be fitted into his earlier schema.
Indian society appeared to him to have lain in a state of stagna
tion for as long as one could trace its history. 3 In order to
acommodate the particularity of this and similar other situations
in Asia in his theory of society, Marx employed the term Asiatic
Mode of Production and its less refined version Oriental Des
potism. Ever since, the two concepts have gone through a
checkered history of use and misuse, often in an atmosphere of
charged partisan debates.
What Marx meant by the Asiatic Mode of Production has
been put together by various authorities, with some difference
of emphasis and interpretations, from a wide range of his writ
ings in the form of letters, dispatches to the New York Daily
Tribune. and substantive works on pre-capitalist and capitalist
modes of production. Nevertheless there seems to be some
agreement on the main features of AMP which can be outlined
with some risk of oversimplification as follows.
To begin with, Marx notes a "legal absence of property"
under the Asiatic Mode of Production. S Land is possessed
communally by numerous particular tribal or village com
munities on the basis of heredity. Above these communities is
poised the "all embracing unity" of the centralized state, per
sonified by the king (despot) which appears as "the higher or
sole proprietor. "6 The surplus value of the direct producers is
expropriated by the state or the king through mechanisms which
are extra-economic, i.e. not determined by market forces. The
surplus of the individual producers is surrendered to the state in
"the form of tribute etc., as well as of common labour for the
exaltation of the unity, partly of the real despot, partly of the
imagined clan-being, the god."7
This set of property relations has significant bearing on the
nature of the class structure. As correctly maintained by Krader
the production of surplus value and its "expropriation by an
other hand" points to the fact that" Asiatic Mode of Production
existed in connection with a political, class-divided society."8
However while we can identify the state with its overright in
land, peasants as holders of land communally, and propertyless
slaves as constituting at least three classes under the Asiatic
Mode, this does not amount to the conclusion that Marx saw
these as self-conscious classes or assigned any importance to
class struggle as a factor in the transformation of the Asiatic
society. The state, rather than the feudal lords or slave masters,
is the principal owner of the surplus product and Marx does not
anywhere in his writings propose a class conflict between the
state and the producers of the surplus under the Asiatic Mode of
The Asiatic state in the Marxist model stands in an interest
ing qualitative relationship to the direct producers. It levies
heavy taxes and makes the peasantry support great armies.
Apart from these levies, executed through the village headman,
the state does not interfere in the internal matters of the village
communities. Neither do the villages have any communication
with the state authority. 9 On the other hand the Asiatic state
performs the important economic function of providing and
maintaining public works (irrigation and communication sys
tems), and thus aids the realization ofthe productive function of
the local communities. 10
The village community system is self-sustaining, "based
on possession in common of the land, on the blending of
agriculture and handicrafts: and on an unalterable division of
labour.... The chief part of the products is destined for direct
use by the community itself, and does not take the form of a
I commodity. . . ." II Marx repeatedly stresses the changeless
ness of these communities because of their self-sustaining
While there is little commodity production in the village,
manufacture and trade in the cities are limited by the state
monopoly of surplus, which inhibits the development of a free
market and a trading class. "Cities in the proper sense arise by
the side of these villages only where the location is particularly
favourable to external trade, or where the head of state and his
satraps exchange their revenue (the surplus product) against
labour, which they expend as labour funds. " I 2
While this characterization of the AMP opened up pos
sibilities of viewing world history in a multilinear perspective, it
has posed many problems for Marxist orthodoxy and engen
dered charges of ethnocentrism reflected in Marx's writings on
Asia. Yet when one looks at the social history of South Asia and
the present state of its political economy in the framework of the
above categories, some very crucial lines of investigation come
to light. This is probably the reason why the concept AMP does
not quietly wither away. There is no doubt about the fact that
Marx relies on European social theorists and historians almost
exclusively to substantiate the conceptual and empirical founda
tions of AMP, 13 and in this sense he is Eurocentric with all the
problems implicated in an outsider's perspective. The charge of
ethnocentrism has perhaps more to do with his denunciatory
tone with respect to a way of life, i.e. the Indian village com
munity system, which was taken advantage of for exploitative
purposes by local despots and Asian conquerers as much as by
the colonial masters.
Today we have access to much more reliable research into
India's past, particularly by Indian historians themselves, than
was the case in Marx's time. This research does not entirely
support the substantive content and related assumptions of a
number of elements in the concept AMP.14 On the basis of
Asian experience to date we also know that the impact of
Western capitalism has failed to produce certain developments
envisaged by Marx. Socialist revolutions have taken place in
some Asiatic countries before their pre-capitalist formations
were substantially subverted and replaced by capitalism, while
certain other countries continue to exist in a mixed state of
dependent capitalism and feudalism. The significance of the
concept AMP lies not in the close fit between theory and reality,
but in the nature of the questions that arise from it.
With respect to South Asia, Marx started out to explain
why there was so little that changed in the political economy of
the region over centuries of its history. Contemporary historians
have qualified this relative changelessness since the transforma
tion of the indigenous and Aryan tribes into peasant villages and
the rise of the centralized state in North India around the 6th
century B. C. 15 For Marx the explanation of this stagnation is to
be found in the specific elements of the AMP, particularly those
relating to the absence of private property in land and negligible
importance of the role played by classes and class struggle.
Sawer points out that this lack of importance assigned to "the
development of self-conscious classes and class struggle" is
anomalous because according to Marx's social theory "the
history of all hitherto-existing society is the history of class
struggles. "16 Does this mean that Marx was placing some
societies beyond the pale of history as is also suggested by his
remark about India not having a history of its own?17
On the theroretical point, one cannot resolve the anomaly
by adhering to a literal and mechanical interpretation of what
Marx has to say about the significance ofclass and class struggle
in human history. No other Marxist writer has clarified this
point better than one of the astute African revolutionary
theoreticians, Amilcar Cabral. Reviewing the revolutionary po
tential of the Third World socio-economic formations, Cabral
explains the role of class struggle as follows: 18
Those who affirm-in our case correctly-that the
motive force of history is the class struggle would certainly
agree to a revision ofthis affirmation to make it more precise
and give it even wider field ofapplication ifthey had a better
knowledge of the essential characteristics of certain col
onized peoples . . . . In fact in the general evolution of
humanity and of each ofthe peoples of which it is composed,
classes appear neither as a generalized phenomenon
throughout the totality of these groups, nor as a finished,
perfect, uniform and spontaneous whole . ... the socio
economic phenomenon" class" is created and develops as a
function of at leqst two essential and interdependent var
iables-the level of productive forces and the pattern of
ownership of the means of production ... classes them
selves, class struggle and their subsequent definition, are the
result ofthe development ofthe productive forces in conjunc
tion with the pattern ofownership ofproduction. It therefore
seems correct to conclude that the level of productive forces,
the essential determining element in the content and form of
class struggle is the true and permanent motive force of
history. (emphasis mine)
Cabral goes on to say that by accepting this conclusion we
will not find ourselves in a position of denying any human
groups the existence of their history while at the same time
affirming the existence of history' 'even after the disappearance
of class struggle' or of classes themselves." 19
In the same article Cabral points out that the development
of the level of the productive forces and the pattern of ownership
of the means of production "takes place slowly, gradually and
unevenly ... on a strictly internal level the rhythm of the
process may vary, but it remains continuous and progressive."
,. Appearance of classes and class conflict between them" is the
result of "qualitative jumps" in this gradual development once
"a certain degree of accumulation is reached. "20
N ow if we look at the history of the Indian sub-continent in
this light, we can clearly see developments taking place, how
soever "slowly, gradually and unevenly" in the pattern of
ownership and the level of productive forces. Of course one
cannot look for these developments very fruitfully in what might
be called "court histories" and the impressionistic works of
chroniclers alone.
Kosambi for instance traces the history of Ancient India to
pre-Mauryan times when land was tribal territory and its use and
possession governed by tribal custom.
With the rise of the
central state and later the Mauryan Empire (3rd century B.C.)
the tribal authority over land passed to the king-emperor and his
janapada (district) magistrates. However, in this period "there
could be no question of landlordism nor feudal practices. "22
However during this long period of the Mauryan Empire
covering almost two centuries up tQ 180 B.C., Indian society
was not standing still, and by no means was it a society without
classes, i.e. with a king at the top of the state power with his
functionaries, and a more or less undifferentiated mass of direct
producers. A new element in the mode of production under the
centralized state was the village community. As pointed out by
Krader, initially this village community "set in motion new
productive forces .... In its internal evolution it generated
commodity exchange between the communities ... it created
surplus production, surplus value extracted by the agencies of
the state in the form of involuntary drafts of labor." i3
Although the role of the state in the execution of public
works and their maintenance is commented upon in the litera
ture on AMP, -littleis said about the coercive power used by the
state to organize large bodies of laborers, not only to build
public work:> but also royal monuments and defense walls.
Under the Mauryas tnere was definitely a class basis in the
organization and exploitation of this labor force. Historian
Thapar gives the following account of the relations of produc
tion at the time:
The majority ofthe populatiun were agriculturalists and
lived in villages. The distinction between king and state
becoming increasingly blurred, the idea that the land was
owned by the king was not seriously challenged . ... The
clearing and settlement of new areas was organized by the
government, large bodies ofSudras being deportedJrom the
overpopulated areas .... Doubtless the hundred and fifty
thousand people deported from Kalinga were to clear waste
land and establish new settlements. These settlers were de
nied arms, their sole work being cultivation, and government
took their surplus crops. The Sudra helot had come into
being under state control, to make large scale slavery un
necessary for food production. But infact there was little to
choose between the status of a Sudra and that of the slave
although legally the Sudra was not a slave. Members of the
other castes and occupations moved into the settlements
voluntarily once it became economically feasible to do so.
(emphasis mine)
Tracing the origin of castes in the tribal society Kosambi speaks
of Sudras as "helots who belonged to the tribe or clan group as a
whole ... without the membership rights of the tribe proper as
granted to three' upper castes (Kshatriya, Brahamana, Vaisya)
who were properly recognized as Aryan and full members of the
tribe. "25 The significance of this caste system for later Indian
society was that "Chattle slavery in t ~ e sense of classical
European (specifically Graeco-Roman) antiquity was never to be
of any size and importance in the means and relations of produc
tion in India. The expropriable surplus could always be pro
duced by the Sudra. The development of caste foreshadowed a
general class society beyond the exclusiveness of the tribe. " 26 It
should also be noted that the labor of the Sudra not only pro
vided the bulk of the state revenue, but also fed the priestly caste
of Brahman and the warrior caste of Kshatriya. The general
observation of the royal ownership of land should not be permit
ted to obscure the class interests of the latter two castes. The
Brahman through his control of religion and codification of
religious obligations, jatidharma, and the Kshatriya by his
control of the arms, exercised considerable coercion to expro
priate the surplus value from the direct producers, either as state
functionaries or local chiefs.
Although the economy was largely agrarian at this time
there was considerable commodity production in progress. The
evidence of a"highly developed" commodity production can
be traced back to the 6th and 7th centuries B.C. through the
discovery of precisely minted coins of silver and other metals in
the northern kingdoms.27 By Ashoka's time trade, commerce
and commodity production had also emerged in district towns
and trading ports on international routes. Artisans organized in
kinship and caste-based guilds, not of course a favorable condi
tion for an ultimate emergence of a free trading class. Another
limitation on such commodity production and trade was that
inasmuch as the state collected the bulk of agricultural and
industrial produce in kind as revenue, it engaged itself in trade to
the detriment of the private merchant. 28
Thus we see that although certain broad features of what is
known as the Asiatic Mode of Production had emerged during
the early centuries of the rise of the central state in India, this
mode of production was not as static as is implied in a literal and
exaggerated version of the concept. It is also true that the
developments in the level of the productive forces were not
always cumulative, but uneven and at times regressive. In order
to understand the causes of these variations, both positive and
negative, one must look into the specific internal and external
contradictions in the means of production and the relations of
The vast and highly centralized Mauryan Empire, taxing
the forces of production to the utmost, contained the seeds of its
own destruction and eventually fell apart by 180 B.C. The
Brahmanic orthodoxy and the rigid caste stratification were not
successfully challenged. Strict state control and increasing state
monopoly of trade and commerce ultimately drove urban craft
production to self-sufficient villages. The criterion of personal
loyalty to the emperor was too brittle to sustain a durable
administrative structure.
The next five centuries in the sub-continent saw the decline
of the central state power and the rise of regional kingdoms.
During this period there was once again an opening up of contact
with many foreign peoples through trade, conquest and settle
ment. While the village economy remained geared to subsist
ence production, probably with some relaxation of the amount
of revenue surrendered to the prevailing authority, the urban
economy expanded significantly as a result of freedom from
strict state controls and taxation. Artisan guilds continued to
grow and prosper. In addition workers' cooperatives were or
ganized around particular crafts and industries which could now
contract large scale building and production and strive for ex
cellence. Some of the great works of sculpture and architecture
in the south and northwest of the subcontinent date back to this
period and many were undertaken as donations to temples and
monasteries. The coinage of the period improved in quality and
circulation. In short this was one of the earliest outbursts of
mercantile activity, albeit in a pre-capitalist context.
In this background once again a powerful dynasty, the
Gupta kings, emerged in the North and ruled from the 4th to the
6th centuries A.D. The first two centuries of this period are
significant for the unprecedented prosperity of the upper classes
through a system of beneficence which conferred upon them
grants of land and property. In the midst of this upper class
prosperity flowered much of the Indian classical knowledge of
literature, philosophy, law, mathematics, astrology and fine
arts, including the art of love. This is also the period which has
aroused considerable controversy with regard to the use of the
term South Asian feudalism for the emergent social structure.
The process began in the Gupta period with the proliferation of
royal grants of land, a!?rahara. free from taxation. To begin
with prominent brahmans constituted the main recipients of
such grants but later these became more common and the sphere
of recipients expanded to the members of the royal families,
local chiefs, temples and even state officials in lieu of salary or
meritorious services. 29 In due course the process resulted in the
creation of a powerful land-owning class in parts of the sub
continent, many of whom engaged in subinfeudation of their
own. 30 Whether these grants were acts of generosity, or made in
quest of divine salvation, or only pragmatic devices to maintain
a semblance of royal control over vast domains, the result was
an irreversible erosion of central authority. A king could now
claim ownership of all land in theory and technically terminate a
grant, but the real power and ownership over large areas of land
had passed into the hands of intermediary Brahmans and local
chiefs. Sharma notes specifically that in later times the' 'right to
punish all offenses against family, property and person" was
i made over to the grantees; "the donor not only abandoned his
revenues but also the right to govern the inhabitants of the
villages that were granted . . . . and in some cases there were
"grants of apparently settled villages made to the Brahmans by
the big feudatories in central India, in which residents, includ
ing the cultivators and artisans, were expressly asked by their
respective rulers not only to pay the customary taxes to the
donees, but also to obey their commands ... " 31
Thus new class relations appropriate to a feudal economic
r order surfaced and matured as time went by. From among the
upper castes emerged a land owning aristocracy which from
now on became a force which all subsequent rulers and con
querors had to deal with. Sudras who were treated as the com
mon helots of the upper castes were increasingly transformed
into peasants. Local intermediaries with direct interest in the
exploitation of rural resources extended forced labor to all
classes of subjects, thus worsening the conditions of peasants.
The present day institutions of begar. unpaid labor demanded
by the landlord from his tenants, batai. or the share of tenant's
crop expropriated, and debt-bondage, became characteristics of
this emerging feudalism. The self-sufficiency of the village,
however, does not seem to have been broken, because'the
cultivators had to depend on each other for most of their needs
without the intervention of cash. The needs of the village for
tools and artifacts were not only met by artisan sub-castes, but as
described in the classical statements of Marx on the Indian
village, each family produced some of its own needs such as
yarn and cloth.
It should be pointed out here that many writers on AMP
continue to insist that the term feudalism should not be used for
variations in the relations of production in South Asia prior to,
or even after the British conquest when permanent titles in land
were created. 32 The reason is that Marx's multilinear schema of
societal change does not provide for the existence of feudalism
outside Europe. Marian Sawer, who has extensively scanned
Marxist writings on AMP in a recent work on the subject,
sketches the following summary of Marx's multilinear schema
of history as fully developed in his Crundrisse:
Primitive Agricultural Community
I .
)' SII. c
Sialic avomc ermamc
AMP_ Feudalism
---- I ... I
AMP - .... Capitalism
According to this schema feudalism alone leads directly to
capitalism through its internal contradiction. The rise of feu
dalism is exclusively a European phenomenon, not to be found
in Asia. On the other hand the Asiatic Mode of Production is
nonprogressive, and will only change to higher levels of the
development of productive forces under the impact of Western
Why then do some of the Eastern historians continue to use
the concept of feudalism with respect to their history? Sawer in
one place in her work suggests that this is due to "the rising
mood of nationalism in the East. " According to her, "instead of
taking Marx's model of Oriental society and giving it a positive
rather than a negative evaluation as an alternative, non-Western
way forward into industrialism and socialism, non-European
Marxists impose a European pattern on their own history. If
class struggle was the dynamic factor which was to bring about
the desired transition to socialism in Europe, then equivalent
classes and forms of class struggle had to be discovered in
Asia. "34
This is not true, at least in the case of South Asian Marxist
historians and their recent works, which incidentally Sawer
ignores completely in her above mentioned study. It would be
more true to say that a class appraisal of South Asian history
through the ages does not permit the application of a thoroughly
sterilized concept of AMP. The closest the historical reality of
South Asia comes to the Marxist model of AMP is during the
period of early central states up to the second century B.C.
Between the 2nd and 13th centuries there emerge patterns of
ownership of land and relations of production which are more
characteristic of a feudal mode of production than anything else.
At the same time, historically, and in different parts of India
elements ofthe AMP have survived into recent times in different
combinations. 35
From the 13th century onward under the Sultanate and
Mughal rule various attempts were made by the central au
thorities to destroy the power of intermediary and regional
overlords and gain direct access to the surplus value of the
peasant's labor through a state bureaucracy along the lines of the
Ashokan Empire. The success of these measures was, however,
short-lived and confined to the high-points of Muslim rule; for
example, under the Sultan Alauddin Khilji (1292-1316) or the
Mughal Emperor Akbar ( 1556-1605). It is true that the Mughals
generally succeeded in eliminating the hereditary rights in land
of their Mansabdars and lagirdars, but they also spent most of
their time and resources in campaigns against resurgent chiefs
and overlords until the empire fell apart.
In conclusion, recent historical findings show that as the
mode of production changed over time in South Asia, it did not
change uniformly in all parts of the region, neither was the
change complete from one mode of production to the other.
Elements of the old mode of production survived into the new.
The analytic utility of the concept AMP, or for that matter of
feudalism and capitalism, lies in exposing the old contradictions
as well as the new ones. If any of these concepts helps to expose
the contradictions in a given soco-economic whole, we should
not hesitate to apply it with an open mind and in a self-correcting
scientific tradition. *'
I. Two most recent full-length works are: Lawrence Krader. The Asiutic
Mode o/Production: Sources, Development and Critique in the Writings ofKarl
Marx. (Assen. The Netherlands: Van Gorcum and Comp., 1975). and Marian
Sawer, Marxism and the Asiatic Mode of Production (The Hague: Martinus
Nijhaff, 1977).
:2. Whether Marx intended this succession of stages to be taken as
connected in a unilinear evolutionary sequence is beside the point here. As we
shall see his later writings present a multilinear view of historical progress.
Sawer. op cit. 90, believes that there was an ambivalence in Mar" and Engeb
between a unilinear and multilinear perception of historical progress. Hobs
bawm points out that even in his early works the notion of stages is not based on a
unilinear conception by Marx. See: E.J. Hobsbawm. Introduction. in Karl
Marx. Pre-capitalist Economic Formations. J. Cohen (trans.) (London:Lawr
ence and Wishart. 1964) 28.
.1. "However changing the political aspect of India's past must appear.
ir- social condition has remained unaltered since its remotest antiquity. until the
first decenium of the 19th century. The hand loom and the spinning-wheel.
producing their regular myriads of spinners and weavers. were the pivots of the
structure of that society. . .. wrote Marx in a dispatch to the New York Daily
Tribune. 25 June. 1853. See: Karl Marx. "The British Rule in India." in
Shlomo Avineri (ed.). Karl Marx on Colollialism and (New
York: Anchor Books. 1969) 91.
4. Among a number of attempts to elucidate the specific elements of
AMP are Krader. op tit. and Perry Anderson. Lineages of the Absolutist State.
(London: NLB. 1974). two fairly exhaustive commentaries.
5. Karl Marx. Pre-capitalist Economic Formutiolls. 70; see also Mar" to
Engels. 2 June. 1853. in Karl Marx Oil Colonialism alld 449-51.
In this letter Marx describes "absence of property in land" as the "basic
phenomenon in the East." which he adds" is the real key even to the oriental
heaven. ..
6. Karl Marx, Pre-capitalist Economic Formations. 69-71.
7. Karl Marx. Grundrisse. Martin Nicholaus (trans.) (New York: Ran
dom House. 1976) 473.
8. Lawrence Krader. op cit. 183.
9. Quoting from a House of Commons Committee report Marx says
about the Indian village .. 'The inhabitants give themselves no trouble about the
breaking up and division of kingdoms; while village remains entire. they care
not to what power it is transferred. or to what sovereign it devolves; its internal
economy remains unchanged ... He further adds. "These idyllic republics which
guard jealously only the boundaries of their villages against the neighboring
village. still exist in a fairly perfect form in the northwestern parts of India.
which were recent English accessions. I do not think anyone could imagine a
more solid foundation for stagnant Asiatic despotism .... " See: Marx to
Engels. 14 June. 1853. in Karl Marx on Colonialism and Modernization. 456.
10. Karl Marx. Precapitalist Economic Formations. 70-71.
II. Karl Marx. Capital: A Critique 0/ Political Economy. New York: The
Modem Library. 1906.392.
13. Almost all major works on Marx's theory of social change have
discussed the European antecedents of his thought. A notable example is Perry
Anderson. Lilleages of the Absolutist State. 397-549.
14. See for instance: D.O. Kosambi. An Introduction to the Indian History
(Bombay: Popular Book Depot. 1956); D.O. Kosambi. The Culture and Civili
of Ancient India in Historical Outline (London: Routlege and Kegan
Paul. 1965); R.S. Sharma. Indian Feudalism: c. JOO-1200 (Calcutta: Calcutta
University Press. 1965); Romila Thapar. A History of India. Vol. I (Har
mondsworth: Penguin Books. 1976).
15. Kosambi's analysis of Indian civilization is an interesting expose of
how old and new exist side by side. See his The Culture and Civilization of
Allciem India ..
16. Marian Sawer. op cit. 52-53.
17. In a July 22. 1853 article. Marx wrote. "Indian society has no history
at II. at least no known history. What we call its history is but the history of the
successive intruders who founded their empires on the passive basis of that
unresisting and unchanging society." See: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. On
Colollialism (New York. International Publishers. 1972) 81.
18. Amilcar Cabral. "The Weapon of Theory." in Revolution in Guinea:
Selected texts (New York: Monthly Review Press) 93-95.
19. Ibid. 95-96. 20. Ibid. 93-94.
21. D.O. Kosambi. The Culture and of Ancient India .
22. D.O. Kosambi. An Introduction to the Study ofIndian History, 215.
23. Lawrence Krader. op cit. 292.
24. RomilaThapar.opcit.76-77.
25. D.O. Kosambi. The Culture and of Ancient India . .. It
should be noted that Marx in his writings does mention the caste division
ofsociety. However such references generally are in the textual context of
division of labor.
26. Ibid. 86. 27. Ibid. 125.
28. D.O. Kosambl. AlIlllIroduction to the Srudy ofIndian HislUry, 206.
29. Some recent published and unpublished research indicates that aKra
ham grants can be traced to the Maurya period and were perhaps quite common
then. However. it is the total context of these grants which makes the Gupta
period more significant for an appraisal of Asiatic feudalism. The beneficiaries
of the Mauryan courts were more thoroughly at the mercy of the king. and were
watched closely by an army of spies for their loyalty to the reigning monarch .
Thus they did not develop into a more or less independent feudal aristocracy
with strong property rights and close economic and personal relationship with
the cultivators. For a recent comprehensive discussion of feudalism as a mode of
production and its specific European and non-European expressions see John
Critchley. Feudalism (London: George Allen & Unwin. 1978).
30. For a detailed study of this process see: R.S. Sharma. op cit.
31. Ibid. 3.
32. For example see Ramkrishna Mukherjee. The Ris,e and Fall of Fmr
India Company (New York: Monthly Review Press. 1975).
33. Marian Sawer. op cit. 207.
34. Ibid. 76.
35. For example the village communes of Tamil Nadu in South India. See
Kathleen Gough Aberle. Dravidian Kinship and Modes ofProductioll. Publica
tion No. 115, Indian Council of Social Science Research. 1978.
Bibliographies on Korea
by Jon Halliday
These brief bibliographies are selective, and of different
quality. The bibliographies on the Korean War and on the
Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) are the
result of numerous requests for a brief guide to each; in the case
of the Korean War, for a list of materials for general readers or
courses on the Cold War. The Korean War list, therefore, gives
basic radical texts plus the most interesting recent material,
mainly ofthe left, but also some from the right (e.g., item C 8).
The bibliography on North Korea is relatively "raison
nee"; it is set out for use by people with little prior acquaintance
with the literature, and can be used in the order it is in. Sections
A and B provide a brief introductory reading geared towards
issues of development studies.
Material on both North and South Korea is often the subject
of controversy. The readings in the "Comparisons" section are
the most useful recent texts available.
The bibliography on the South is of a different kind. This
simply represents an unordered listing of two types of material:
first, the most important relatively recent texts from Seoul, the
World Bank, etc. on ROK development, income distribution,
etc.; second, a basic selection of English-language materials
which can present an alternative view of the ROK. On the
whole, the pro-$eoul groups have made the running on the
South 7s development and there is an urgent need for a system
atic critique of the now huge "development" literature on the
ROK. In particular, good material is needed on the nature ofthe
finar:ce and the new class structure (espe
Cially the mdustnal workmg class and the bourgeoisie).
the bi?liographies are of Western-language (mainly
Enghsh) matenals. I have included only the most important
from a few Western European languages other than Eng
lIsh .. the most important material on Korea is being
pubhshed m Japanese. Works with useful bibliographies are
asterisked; works with particularly useful maps are marked :j:.
The bibliographies do not attempt to cover the question of
reunification (for which see item 48 in South Korea).
I would like to thank Herb Bix, Bruce Cumings, Gavan
McCormack, Hans Luther, and Paolo Santangelo for
June 29, 1979
A. Bibliographies
I. Blanchard, Carroll H., Korean War Bibliography
(Albany, N.Y., 1964).
2. Park, Hong-kyu, The Korean War: An Annotated Bibliog
raphy (Marshall, Texas: Demmer Co., 1971).
B. Background
I. Cumings, Bruce, "American Policy and Korean Libera
tion," in Frank Baldwin, ed., Without Parallel: the Amer
ican-Korean Relationship Since 1945 (New York: Pan
theon, 1974):39-108.
2. Cumings, Bruce, The Origins of the Korean War. I: Lib
eration and the Establishment ofSeparate Regimes (Prince
ton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980).
3. Gaddis, John Lewis, "Korea in American Politics, Stra
Diplomacy, 1945-50," in Yonosuke Nagai and
Aklra Inye, eds., The Origins of the Cold War in Asia
(University of Tokyo Press, 1977).
4. Gayn, Mark, Japan Diary (New York: W. Sloane, 1948):
349-443; 505-510.
5. Halliday, Jon, "The Korean Revolution," Socialist Revo
lution [now Socialist Review] (San Francisco), I, 6 (1970):
90-135; also in id., Three Articles on the Korean Revolu
tion (London: AREAS, 1972).
6. Halliday., Jon, "The United Nations and Korea," in Bald
win, ed., op. cit.
7. Kim San & Nym W.ales, The Song of Ariran (San Fran
cisco: Ramparts Press, 1973 reprint of 1941 ed.).
8. Lee, Chong-sik, Materials on Korean Communism, 1945
1947 (Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1978).
9. Nakajima, Mineo, "The Sino-Soviet Confrontation: Its
Roots in the International Background ofthe Korean War,"
Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, no. 1 (Jan.
1979): 19-47.
10. Okonogi Masao, "The Domestic Roots of the Korean
War" in Nagai and Iriye, eds., op. cit.
II. Sawyer, Robert, Military Advisers in Korea: KMAG in
Peace and War (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of
Military History, 1962).
12. Slusser, Robert M., "Soviet Far Eastern Policy, 1945-50:
Stalin's Goals in Korea," in Nagai and Iriye, eds., op. cit.
*13. Suh, Dae-sook, The Korean Communist Movement,
1918-1948 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1967).
14. The U.S. Imperialists Started the Korean War
(Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1977).
C. The War
1. Bernstein, Barton J., "American Intervention in the
Korean Civil War," Foreign Service Journal, Jan. 1977:6
11; Feb. 1977:8-11.
2. Cumings, Bruce (see B.2).
3. Gittings, John, "Talks, Bombs and Germs: Another Look
at the Korean War," Journal of Contemporary Asia, V,2
4. Gupta, Karunakar, "How Did the Korean War Begin?"
China Quarterly, 52 (1972) and discussion, CQ 54.
5. Halliday, Jon, "What Happened in Korea?' Bulletin of
Concerned Asian Scholars, Vol. 5, No.3, 3 (1973).
6. Halliday, Jon, "The Korean War: Some Notes on Evidence
and Solidarity," Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars,
Vol. II, No.3 (1979).
7. Halliday, Jon, "La Politica de la Guerra de Corea,"
Estudios de Asia y Africa (Mexico City), XIII, 2 (1978):
8. Kim, Chum-kon, The Korean War (Seoul: Kwangmyong
Co., 1973).
9. Knightley, Phillip, The First Casualty (London: Deutsch,
1975), ch. 14.
10. Kolko, Joyce and Gabriel, The Limits ofPower (New York:
Harper & Row, 1972), chs. 10,21,22; discussion, Pacific
HistoricalReview, Nov. 1973:537-575.
1I. Schnabel, James F., Policy and Direction: The First Year
(Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military His
tory, 1973).
12. Simmons, Robert, The Strained Alliance: Peking, Pyong
yang, Moscow, and the Politics of the Korean Civil War
(New York: Free Press, 1975).
13. Stone, I. F., The Hidden History of the Korean War (New
York: Monthly Review Press, 1952 & 1969).
14. History of the Just Fatherland War of the Korean People
(Pyongyang: FLPH, 1961).
D. The War: Specific Issues
(i) Bacteriological Warfare
I. Endicott, Stephen L., "Germ Warfare and 'Plausible De
nial': The Korean War 1952-1953," Modern China, V, I
(Jan. 1979):79-104.
2. van Ginneken, Jaap, "Bacteriological Warfare," Journal
ofContemporary Asia, VII, 2 (1977): 130-152.
(ii) Other
1. Lo, Clarence Y. H., "Military Spending as Crisis Man
agement: The U. S. Response to the Berlin Blockade and
the Korean War," Berkeley Journal of Sociology, XX
(1975-76): 147-181.
2. Paige, Glenn D., "On Values and Science: The Korean
Decision Reconsidered," American Political Science Re
view, Dec. 1977:1603-09.
Important material on the War and Background is also to be
found in items E 29, E 30 and G. 36 in North Korea bibliog
raphy, as in main books on the Chinese Army.
A. General Political Overview
1. Cumings, Bruce G., "Kim's Korean Communism," Prob
lems ofCommunism (U.S.A.), March-April 1974:27-41.
Articles/Pamphlets on Economic Development
*2. Ante, Robert, "The Transformation of the Economic
Geography of the DPRK," Korea Focus (New York), I, 3
(n.d., ? 1972):35-58.
3. Foster-Carter, Aidan, "North Korea: Development and
Self-Reliance: A Critical Appraisal," Bulletin of Con
cerned Asian Scholars Vol. 9, No. I (Jan-Mar 1977):45
57; also in Gavan McCormack and John Gittings, eds.,
Crisis in Korea (Nottingham: Spokesman Books, 1977):
71-105; and in McCormack and Mark Selden, eds., Korea,
North and South: The Deepening Crisis (New York:
Monthly Review Press, 1978): 115-149.
4. Motohashi, Atsushi, "Comparison of the Socialist Econ
omies in China and Korea," The Developing Economies
(Tokyo), V, 1(1967):68-85.
5. Nishikawa, Jun, "El desarrollo economico de Corea del
Norte," Estudios de Asia y Africa (Mexico City), XX, 2
(no. 34) ( 1977):235-257.
6. Our Party's Policy for the Building of an Independent
National Economy (Pyongyang: FLPH, 1975),6Opp.
7. White, Gordon, "North Korean Chuch'e: The Political
Economy of Independence, " Bulletin of Concerned Asian
Scholars, Vol. 7, No.2 (1975):44-54.
C. Basic Books
8. Brun, Ellen, and Hersh, Jacques, Socialist Korea: A Case
Study of Economic Development (New York & London:
Monthly Review Press, 1976).
9. Chung, Joseph Sang-hoon, The North Korean Economv:
Structure and Development (Stanford: Hoover I n s t i t u t i ~ n
Press, 1974).
10. Freeland, Nena, and Shinn, Rinn-sup, Area Handbookfor
North Korea (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Print
ing Office, 1976).
II. The Building of an Independent National Economy in
Korea (Pyongyang: FLPH, 1977).
D . Useful Articles
12. Brun, Ellen, and Jacques Hersh, "North Korea: Default of
a Model or a Model in Default," Monthly Review (New
York) 29, 9 (Feb. 1978): 19-28.
13. Brun, Ellen (in cooperation with Jacques Hersh), . 'The
Korean Example of Self-Centred Accumulation," Marxis
tisk Antropologi (Denmark) (in English), III, 4 (1978): 133 )
t 14. Caldwell, Malcolm, "North Korea-Aspects of a New
Society,Contemporary Review (London, U.K.) no. 1355
(Dec. 1978):281-289.
15. Dhunjiboy, Roshan, and Gerhard Breidenstein, "Nord
koreazwischen Beschimpfung und Bewunderung," Dritte
Welt Magazin (Bonn), July-Aug. 1978.
. 15. Kim, Ilpyong, "Changing Perspectives in North Korea:
Approach to Economic Development," Problems ofCom
munism, Jan.-Feb. 1973:44-54 (revised and abbreviated as
ch. 5 in E.28).
16. Kloth, Edward W., "The Korean Path to Socialism: The
Taean Industrial Management System," Occasional Pap

ers on Korea (Seattle), no. 3 (1975):34-48.
17. Kuark, Yoon T., "North Korea's Industrial Development
during the Post-War Period," China Quarterly, no. 14
(April-June 1963):51-64. Also issued as a book edited by
Robert Scalapino, North Korea Today (New York:
. ~
Praeger, 1973).
18. Kuark, Yoon T., "North Korea's Agricultural Develop
ment During the Post-War Period," ibid.:82-93.
19. Kumitzky, Horst, "Chollina Korea: Ein Besuch im Jahre
23," Kursbuch, 30 (Dec. 1972):87-114(W. Berlin).
20. Lee, Chong-sik, "Land Reform, Collectivisation and the
Peasants in North Korea," China Quarterly, 14:65-81.
21. Lee, Chong-sik, "Social Changes in North Korea: A Pre
liminary Assessment," Journal of Korean Affairs, VI, I
22. Lee, Chong-sik, "New Paths for North Korea," Problems
ofCommunism, March-April 1977:55-66.
23. Noumoff, S. J., "The Struggle for Revolutionary Authen
ticity: The Experience of the DPRK," Journal of Con
temporary Asia, IX, 1(1979):27-52.
24. White, D. Gordon, "The DPRK Through the Eyes of a
Visiting Sinologist," China Quarterly, 63 (Sept. (975):
25. Wolff, K. D., "Korea und Korea," Kursbuch,d 30: 119
E. Political Background
26. Chung, Kiwon, "The North Korean People's Army and the
Party," China Quarterly, 14: \05-124.
27. Kim, Ilpyong J., Communist Politics in North Korea (New
York: Praeger, 1975).
*28. Lee, Chong-sik, The Korean Workers' Party: A Short
History, (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1978).
29. Nam, Koon Woo, The North Korean Communist Leader
ship, 1945-65 (Alabama University Press, 1974).
During layout ofvolume II No.3, two footnotes of Jon Halli
day's article, "The Korean War; Some Notes on Evidence and
Solidarity," were blended together. On page 15, notes 6 and 7
should have read as follows:
6. In addition, section 8 of the Report states:
In some sectors it had been reported that civilians had recently been
removed from areas adjoining porallel to north to depths varyingfrom 4 to 8
kilometres. Another report received during night Thursday 22 June at
regimental headquarters Ongjin was to effect that there was increased
military activity in Chuj!ia about 4 kilometres North porallel.
Iri a later article. Noble discusses the reported removal of civilians. and points
out that this need not necessarily have been a preparation for an attack. (1952
article reprinted in Embassy at War as an Appendix, p. 230; on this article. see
below). It may be noted that the ROK (unlike the DPRK) has cleared civilians
from its side of the current Demarcation Line-not something which its sup
porters would accept as proof it was preparing a war. During an interview with 6
senior KPA officers in Pyongyang. July 26. 1977. [asked if it was correct that
the DPRK had moved civilians away from the Parallel immediately prior to June
2S. 1950. The answer was: . 'The KPA has summer and winter training. Regular
training was carried out at this time. Since the Army was deloyed along the 38th
Parallel for defensive reasons. there were units along the Parallel."
7. In fact. in the crucial week immediately prior to June 25th. they were
nowhere near the Parallel most of the time. They returned to Seoul from the
Parallel on June 17th. stayed in Seoul until the 21st. and returned to Seoul on
June 23rd (for which day the only entry in the UN Report is that they returned to
Seoul by sea-from the Ongjin Peninsulaarea)(UN. Report, p. 4. cited in n. S).
I am trying to trace the two Australian officers; if anyone knows of their
whereabouts. I would be most grateful for information c/o the Bulletin.
*30. Scalapino, Robert, and Lee, Chong-sik, Communism in
Korea (Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California
Press, 1972), 2 vols.
*31. Suh, Dae-sook, The Korean Communist Movement 1918
1948 (Princeton University Press, (967).
F. Official DPRK Materials (all Anonymous, FLPH,
32. The Historical Experience of the Agrarian Reform in Our
Country (1974).
33. Historical Experience of Agricultural Cooperation in Our
Country (1975).
34. On the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK (1975).
35. Socialist Transformation of Private Trade and Industry in
Korea (1975).
G. Miscellaneous Other Books
36. Burchett, Wilfred G., Again Korea (New York: Interna
tional Publishers, 1968).
37. Carrier, Fred J., North Korean Journey: The Revolution
Against Colonialism (New York: International Publishers,
38. Kim Byong Sik, Modern Korea (New York: International
Publishers, 1970.
39. Kim Youn-soo, The Economy of the KDPR 1945-i977
(Kiel, Gennany: 1979).
40. Salisbury, Harrison E., To Peking-And Beyond: A Report
on the New Asia (New York: Quadrangle, 1973), chs. 16 &
41. Suret-Canale, J., and Vidal, J. E., La Coree Populaire:
Vers Les Matins Calmes (Paris: Editions Sociales, 1973).
42. U.S. Congress, Human Rights in North Korea, Hearing
Before the Subcommittee on International Organizations of
the Committee on International Relations, House of Rep
resentatives, 94th Congress, 2d Session, Sept. 9, 1976
(Washington, D.C., 1976).
43. Lameda, Ali, Ali Lameda: A Personal Account of the
Experience of a Prisoner ofConscience in the Democratic
People's Republic of Korea (London: Amnesty Interna
tional, 1979).
H. Periodical Publications
44. North Korea Quarterly (Hamburg).
45. Pyongyang Times (Pyongyang, weekly).
46. Vantage Point (Seoul, monthly).
Additional infonnationcan be found in:
47. Asian Survey, annual round-up of the year in North Korea.
48. Far Eastern Economy Review Yearbook.
49. FBIS (Foreign Broadcast Infonnation Service).
50. BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), Summary of
World Broadcasts, Far East.
51. JPRS (Joint Publications Research Service), Translations
on North Korea.
52. Problems ofCommunism.
53. Economist intelligence Unit, quarterly reports on North
I. Breidenstein, Gerhard, "Economic Comparison of North
and South Korea," Journal of Contemporary Asia, V, 2
(1975): 165-178.
2. Halliday, Jon, "Nord e Sud: due modelli a confronto,'"
Politica Internazionale (Rome), no. 12, Dec. 1978:86-97.
3. Rosenberg, W., "Economic Comparison of North and
South Korea," Journal of Contemporary Asia, V, 2: 190
4. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, National Foreign As
sessment Center, Korea: The Economic Race Between the
North and the South (ER 78-10(08) (Washington, D.C.,
I. Adelman, Inna, and Shennan Robinson, Income Dis
tribution Policy in Developing Countries: A Case Study of
Korea (Stanford Univ. Press and Oxford Univ. Press for the
World Bank, 1978).
2. Amnesty International (London), Report of Mission to the
Republic of Korea, 1975 (London, 2d ed., 1977).
3. Ampo (Tokyo), nos. 30-31 (1977): special issue on Free
Trade Zones and Industrialization of Asia; see especially
the articles by Tsuchiya and Matsuo on Masan.
:1:4. Ante, Robert, "The Defonnation of the Economic Geog
raphy of the ROK," Korea Focus (New York), IV,
(Mar.-Apr. 1975):35-54.
5. Asian Development Information (Melbourne, Australia),
no. 40 (n.d. [? 1978]).
6. Balassa, Bela, "Industrial Policies in Taiwan and Korea,"
Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv, Band 105, Heft 1(1971):55
77 (in English).
7. Baldwin, Frank, ed., Without Parallel (Pantheon: New
York, 1974).
8. Bartz, Patricia M., South Korea (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
9. Bix, Herbert P., "Regional Integration: Japan and South
Korea in America's Asian Policy," in Baldwin, op. cit.:
10. Breidenstein, Gerhard, "Capitalism in South Korea," in
Baldwin, op. cit. :233-270.
II. Brown, Gilbert T., Korean Pricing Policies and Economic
Development in the i960s (Baltimore, MD.: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1973).
12. Campbell, Colin D., "The Velocity of Money and the Rate
of Inflation: Recent Experiences in South Korea and
Brazil," in David Meiselman, ed., Varieties of Monetary
Experience (Chicago & London: University of Chicago
Press, 1970):339-386.
13. Center for International Policy, Human Rights and the U.S.
Foreign Assistance Program, Fiscal Year 1978, Part 2
East Asia (Washington, D.C., 1977).
14. Chee, Changboh, "Export-Oriented Development: Model
for Modernization in South Korea," Korean Review, II,
4-5 (July-Aug. 1978):50-62.
15. Choo, H., "Probable Size Distribution of Income in Korea:
Over Time and by Sectors," in H. T. Oshima and T.
Mizoguchi, eds., income Distribution by Sectors and Over
Time in East and Southeast Asian Cuntries (Quezon City &
Tokyo: CAMS & IADRPHU, Hitotsubashi University,
16. Choo, H. c., "Some Sources of Relative Equity in Korean
Income Distribution: A Historical Perspective," in Income
Distribution, Employment and Economic Development in
Southeast and East Asia (Tokyo: Japan Economic Research
Center, & Manila, Council for Asian Manpower Studies,
17. Chung Kyungmo, "The Second Liberation of South Korea
and Democratization of Japan," The Japan interpreter,
IX, 2 (Summer-Autumn 1974): 177-197.
18. Cohen, Benjamin I., Multinational Firms and Asian Ex
ports (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975).
19. Cole, D. c., & P. N. Lyman, Korean Development: The
Interplay of Politics and Economics (Cambridge, Mass.:
Harvard University Press, 1971).
20. Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the
World Council of Churches, Human Rights in the Repub
lie of Korea (Geneva, 1979).
. ~
21. Dore, R. P., "South Korean Development in Wider Per
spective," Pacific Affairs, L, 2 (Summer 1977): 189-207.
22. Economic Planning Board, Seoul, Summary Draft of the
4th Five-Year Development Plan (Seoul, 1976).
23. Economist (London), Survey of South Korea, March 3,
24. Emergency Christian Conference on Korean Problems,
Documents on the Struggle for Democracy in Korea
(Tokyo: Shinkyo Shuppansha, 1975).
25. Far Eastern Economic Review, annual surveys on South
Korea (May 18, 1979; May 26, 1978).
26. Far Eastern Economic Review, Asia Yearbook (FEER,
Hong Kong, annual).
27. Fei, J. C. & Gustav Ranis, "A Model of Growth and
Employment in the Open Dualistic Economy: The Case of
Korea and Taiwan," Journal ofDevelopment Studies, XI,
2 (Jan. 1975):32-63.
28. Frank, Charles R. Jr., Kwang SukKim & Larry E. West
phal, Foreign Trade Regimes and Economic Development:
South Korea (New York: National Bureau of Economic
Research, 1975).
29. Gupta, S., Alternative Development Strategies of Korea
( 1976- 1990) in an Input-Output Dynamic Simulation
Model, World Bank Staff Working Paper, no. 250 (March
30. Han, Sungjoo, The Failure of Democracy in South Korea
(Berkeley: U ni versity of California Press, 1974).
31. Harris, Nigel, "The Asian boom economies and the 'im
possibility' of national economic development," Interna
tional Socialism (London), series 2, no. 3 (Winter 1978/
32. Hasan, Parvez, Korea: Problems and Issues in a Rapidly
Growing Economy (Johns Hopkins University Press,
33. Hong, Wontak, Factor Supply and Factor Intensity of
Trade in Korea (Seoul: Korea Development Institute,
34. Hong, Wontak & Anne O. Krueger, eds., Trade and De
velopment in Korea (Seoul: Korea Development Institute,
35. Industrial Bank of Japan, Japanese Finance and Industry,
no. 37 (Jan.-June 1978) (Tokyo): issue on the Petrochem
ical Industry in East Asia (with special reference to Taiwan
and S. Korea).
36. International Bank for Reconstruction and Deve!opment
see World Bank.
37. Institute on 'the Church in Urban-Industrial Society (Chi
cago), Country Profile: South Korea (Chicago: ICUlS,
38. Jones, Leroy P. , Public Enterprise and Economic Develop
ment: The Korean Case (Seoul: Korea Development Insti
tute, 1975).
39. Kim Chang Soo, "Marginalization, Development and the
Korean Workers' Movement," Ampo, IX, 3 (July-Nov.
40. Kim Chi-ha, Cry ofthe People and Other Poems (Hayama:
Autumn Press, 1974).
41. Kim, D. H., "A Note on the Size Distribution of Income
for Nonfann Households in Korea," IADRPHU Working
Paper, 1977.
42. Kim, Kwan Bong, The Korea-Japan Treaty Crisis and the
Instability of the Korean Political System (New York:
Praeger, 1971).
43. Kim Se-jin, The Politics of Military Revolution in Korea
(Chapel Hill: North Carolina University Press, 1971).
44. Kim-Se-jin, "Korea's Involvement in Vietnam and Its
Political and Economic Impact," Asian Survey, X, 6 (June
45. Koen, Michael, Korean Phoenix: A Nationfrom the Ashes
(Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, 1977).
46. Korea Newsletter, The People vs. Park Chung Hee
(Tokyo, 1976).
47. Korea Statistical Yearbook (Seoul, annual).
48. Kuznets, Paul W., Economic Growth and Structure in
the Republic of Korea (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1977).
49. Lee, Eddy, "Egalitarian Peasant Fanning and Rural De
velopment: the Case of South Korea," International
Labour Office, Working Papers, Geneva, April 1978.
50. Luther, Hans U., "Saemaul Undong: The 'Modernization'
of Rural Poverty in South Korea," mss. 1979.
51. Long, Don, "Repression and Development in the Periph
ery: South Korea," Bulletin ofConcerned Asian Scholars,
Vol. 9, No.2 (April-June 1977):26-41 (cf. other articles
ibid. on repression in ROK).
*52. McCormack, Gavan & Mark Selden, eds., Korea North
and South (New York & London: Monthly Review Press,
53. McCormack, Gavan, "The South Korean Phenomenon,"
Australian Outlook, Dec. 1978.
54. Mizoguchi Teshiyuki et aI., "Overtime Changes of the
Size of Distribution of Household Income in Korea, 1963
71," The Developing Economies (Tokyo), XIV, 3 (Sept.
55. Myongdong Declaration (March I, 1976), Ampo, VIII, I
56. Nam, Koon Woo, "The Determinants of Industrial Con
centration: The Case of Korea," Malayan Economic Re
view, XX, I (April 1975):37-48.
57. Ogle, George, "Korean Labour Unions in -the 1960s,"
International Journal of Korean Studies (Seoul. Yonsei
University), Vol. 2 (1974):23-56.
58. Ogle. George, Liberty to the Captives (1977).
59. Palais, James B., " 'Democracy' in South Korea. 1948
72," in Baldwin, ed .. Without Parallel:318-357.
60. Payer, Cheryl, "Pushed into the Debt Trap: South Korea's
Export Miracle," Journal of Contemporary Asia, V, 2
(1975): 153-164.
61. Korea Herald, Korea Seen From Abroad, (Seoul, Korea
Herald annual).
62. Rao, D. c., "Economic Growth and Equity in the Re
public of Korea," World Development, VI, 3 (1978):383
63. Renaud, Bertrand, "Economic Growth and Income In
equality in Korea," World Bank Staff Working Paper, no.
240 (Washington, D.C., 1976).
64. Revolutionary Party for Reunification, White Paper on the
South Korean Economy, Pyongyang Times, Nov. 25,
65. Rowan, Roy, "There's Still Some Good News about South
Korea, " Fortune, Sept. 1977.
66. Sunoo, Harold Sukwon, Repressive State and Resisting
Church: The Politics ofCIA in South Korea (Fayette, Mo.,
67. Times (London), July 31, 1978 Supplement, Korea
68. T. K., Letters from South Korea (Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten,
69. Valence, David, "Opposition in South Korea," New Left
Review, no. 77 (Jan.-Feb. 1973).
70. Wade, L. L. & B. S. Kim, The Political Economy of
Success: Public Policy and Economic Development in the
Republic of Korea (Seoul: Kyunghee University Press,
71. Westphal, Larry E., "The Republic of Korea's Experience
in Export-Led Industrial Development," World Develop
ment, VI, 3 (1978):347-382.
72. Westphal, Larry E. & Irma Adelman, "Reflections on the
Political Economy of Planning: The Case of Korea," in
S. H. Jo & S. Y. Park, eds., Basic Documents and Se
lected Papers of Korea's Third Five-Year Economic De
velopment Plan (1972-76) (Seoul: Sogang University,
73. Wideman, Bernie, "The Plight of the South Korean Peas
ant, " in Baldwin, ed., Without Parallel:271-317.
74. Woo, Ki Do, "Wages and Labor Productivity in the Cotton
Spinning Industries of Japan, Korea, and Taiwan," The
Developing Economies, XVI, 2 (June 1978): 182-198.
75. World Bank, Growth and Prospects of the Korean Econ
omy (IBRD, Washington, D.C., 1977); cf. new study pub
lished mid-1979.
76. Yoshioka, Shin'ichi, "A Study on Wage Distribution in
Korea and Japan," The Developing Economies, XVI, 1
(Mar. 1978).
I. Specialized on Korea
I. Journal ofEast and West Studies (Seoul)
2. Journal ofKorean Affairs (U.S.A., 1971-76).
3. Journal ofKorean Studies (Seattle, 1979- ).
4. Korea and World Affairs (Seoul).
5. Korea Business (Seoul).
6. Korea Newsletter (Tokyo, 1974-76).
7. The Korean Review (New York, 1977- ).
8. Korean Studies (Tokyo, 1976-77).
9. Korean Studies (Honolulu, 1978- ).
10. Ronin (1972-74), especially I, 4-5 (Aug. 1972), special
issue on "Anti-Communism and Spies in South Korea,"
and no. 13 (Oct. 1973), special issue on " Work and S trug
gle in Korea. "
II. General
11. Ampo (Tokyo).
12. Asia Research Bulletin (Singapore, monthly).
13. Asian Finance (Hong Kong).
14. Asian Perspective (Seoul).
15. Asian Survey (U.S.A.), especially round-up ofS. Korea.
16. Business Asia.
17. Economist Intelligence Unit (London), Quarterly Review.
Addendum on South Korea
South Korea's growth needs to be set in the general context of
wider developments in East Asia (cf., e.g., Harris, item 30); the
London Economist recently published two important (though
ill-informed) supplements on the area (May 5, 1977; June 23,
1979). The OECD study, The Impact ofthe Newly Industrialis
ing Countries (June 1979) also covers the ROK.
Item : address: ICVlS, 5700 S. Woodlawn Avenue, Chi
cago, Ill. 60637, U.S.A.
The American Friends Service Committee (1501 Cherry St.,
Philadelphia PA 19102, U. S. A.) publishes Korea Report and
excellent Korea Resources (revised ed., Oct. 1978) with up-to
date information on books and periodicals, with addresses and
The Utilization of "Surplus" Labor
in the People's Republic of China
by Jean w. Adams
For decades, economists concerned with the problems of
economic development have noted the typical existence of sur
plus labor in heavily populated, underdeveloped countries,
most notably those of Asia, in which the factor endowment
consists of abundant and often rapidly growing labor forces
coupled with scarcity of both land and capital. In such countries,
the vast majority of the population usually is engaged in ag
ricultural activities and, at a minimum, is characterized by
substantial seasonal unemployment during the slack agricultural
times of the year and, more typically, also has substantial
disguised unemployment throughout the entire year. Also char
acteristic of such countries is a continuing large-scale migration
of labor from rural to urban areas, which transforms the dis
guised agricultural unemployment into open urban unemploy
ment as the newly (and not-so-newly) arrived urban residents
discover that the jobs they seek are substantially fewer than the
number of job-seekers. Furthermore, even those fortunate
enough to find urban employment often appear to be substan
tially underemployed, for example, in jobs within the govern
ment sector, in petty retail trade, and as messengers and private
household servants. Even in countries that have been experienc
ing relatively high levels of investment and fairly rapid rates of
economic growth, the employment problems are far from elim
inated and cause social and political problems as well as econ
omic ones. It seems ironic that in such countries there exists
simultaneously so many people seeking work and so much work
that could be accomplished and could raise basic living stan
dards if the unemployed (and underemployed) workers could be
engaged in productive (and more productive) activities.
While the above description is still applicable today to
many Asian underdeveloped countries, it is not descriptive of
the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the 1970s. Despite
China's huge population, high population to arable land ratio,
and relatively small capital stock, China appears (unlike its Asian
underdeveloped capitalist neighbors) to have largely solved the
employment problems in both rural and urban areas and is, at
this time, to a great extent fully utilizing its abundant labor
force. While China may still experience some unemployment
and underemployment, as will be discussed later, the extent of it
is so much less than, for example, in India, to make it a
difference in kind. Until now at least, China has largely solved
the typical employment problems summarized above by over
coming several market failures inherent in underdeveloped cap
italist countries characterized by abundant populations. China
has done this through the adoption of a socialist economic
system and the implementation of institutions and policies con
sistent with such a system.
Market Failures in Labor-Abundant Underdeveloped
Capitalist Systems
In labor-abundant underdeveloped capitalist systems there
are two separable but interrelated factors that impede the full
utilization of the available labor. First, the market wage is
artificially high in the sense that it is typically above labor's
social opportunity cost; 1 consequently, fewer workers are hired
than would be the case if the wage were instead at or nearer the
level of labor's social opportunity cost. Secondly, the technol
ogy typically selected in such countries is relatively capital
intensive; when coupled with an abundant labor supply, this
results in less than all available labor being hired.
1. Artificially High Market Wage
In most densely populated underdeveloped capitalist coun
tries, the market wage (which is the private cost of hiring labor)
in the urban sector typically exceeds the social opportunity cost
of employing additional workers. Profit-guided entrepreneurs
will hire additional labor only as long as that labor produces
more than the wage at which it can be hired. This is optimal if
labor has alternative productive uses and if the market wage
accurately reflects the value of alternative uses of labor. How
ever, in poor underdeveloped countries characterized by wide
spread unemployment and underemployment, the social op
portunity cost of employing additional labor is approximately
; the widespread existence of unemployment implies that
employing an additional worker in a productive activity will not
reduce any other output, except the leisure of that worker. 3
When the social opportunity cost of employing additional labor
is zero, aggregate and per capita output can be increased by
using any and all labor the marginal product of which is greater
than zero.
The most important reason why the private market wage
exceeds the social opportunity cost of hiring additional workers
was pointed out in 1954 by W. Arthur Lewis and became a major
factor in his model of economic development which he prop
osed to be appropriate for underdeveloped countries charac
terized by large supplies of surplus labor.
Lewis assumes in his
model (and believes it to be descriptive of many overpopulated,
underdeveloped countries) that there exists a substantial amount
of labor whose marginal product is effectively zeros because the
population is so large relative to capital and natural resources.
Thus, removing such unproductive workers from their current
employment or nonemployment and putting them to work at
jobs in which their marginal product is positive and higher is
socially desirable.
However, Lewis points out that such "surplus" labor,
while not currently productively employed, requires a higher
wage than the value of its current production in order to induce
such workers to accept alternative and productive employment
(in Lewis's model, to induce such workers to move to the cities
and seek employment in the capitalist sector). This is attributed
by Lewis to the fact that the family unit in such underdeveloped
countries traditionally shares its combined family income among
all family members in a relatively equal manner. Thus, each
APtmember of the family consumes an amount equal to the
average product of the entire family's labor (which will be
denoted APt), regardless of the individual's own contribution
The Bulletin is (almost) everywhere: Sofia, Copenhagen, Mexico City,
Calcutta, Christchurch, and in the Reading Room of Shanghai Nonnal
University. Photograph by Jim Cole, Yale University, August, 1979.
to production (which is the individual's marginal product of
labor, which for surplus workers will be denoted P ~ ) . When
the marginal product of some family workers is approximately
zero, M P ~ - APt; the essential point is that the family
members who are surplus workers live, in effect, on a subsidy
when their own individual contributions to output are less than
their individual levels of consumption.
To induce such surplus workers to seek alternative employ
ment, they would have to be offered a wage that exceeds what
they currently consume (APt), rather than a wage that exceeds
contribution to production M P ~ ) . In addition, because Lewis
envisaged such surplus labor to be primarily located in the ruraI
agriCUltural sector, and would thus need to be transfered to the
urban capitalist sector in order to be productively employed,
Lewis argued that the market wage sufficient to induce such
workers to leave their ruraI families and incur the costs of
moving to the city (denoted as W*) would have to exceed their
APt in the agricultural sector by some critical minimum amount
(which will be designated as c). Thus, the urban capitalist sector
would have to offer a wage (W*) equal to APt +c to induce the
surplus agricultural workers to take urban capitalist sector jobs.
However, because Lewis assumed that in the countries he was
considering there was such a large amount of labor whose
marginal product was effectively zero, at the wage (W*) equal
to APt + c, there would be an unlimited quantity of labor
available at this wage. In other words, there would be a perfectly
elastic supply of labor curve to the capitalist sector at the wage
level W*.6
The following graph shows how this market wage (W*)
results in less than optimal employment in the market sector.
quantity of labor M R
In the above graph W* = APt + c. Given a fixed amount of
capital in the Ufl?an capitalist sector, the marginal product of
labor curve in that sector is NR. Given the wage W*, only OM
units of labor will be hired in the capitalist sector.
However, if M P ~ is zero outside the urban capitalist sector
(e.g., in the agricultural sector), or units of labor ought to be
employed in the interest of maxiJnizing aggregate output since
the social opportunity cost of the units of labor between OM and
OR is zero.
While Lewis identified family income sharing as the mech
anism that enables surplus workers to consume more than their
contributions to production, the same result would also be
obtained if, instead of the family unit, the government provides
subsistence income through redistribution. For example, the
government might establish an income maintenance program
that guarantees a level of family income sufficient to prevent
starvation. Under such a program the government would pro
vide transfer payments such that the transfer payment plus the
total product of the family assures subsistence.
Regardless of whether it is the family or the government
that, through income redistribution, assures that individuals do
not starve, the potential labor force is given. It then becomes
rational to employ all available (adult) labor in any activity in
which the marginal product of labor is greater than zero, be
cause any addition to total output of the society is a net social
I" addition to the practices of family income sharing and/or
government income maintenance programs, there may be other
practices that also cause private market wage to exceed the
marginal social opportunity cost of employing labor in under
developed capitalist countries. These include government prac
tices of establishing minimum wage laws and/or the encourage
ment of trade unionism. In addition, the wage policies offoreign
firms located in the underdeveloped country may exert an up
ward influence on wage rates in the capitalist sector.
2. Capital-Intensive Technology
The technology used in the urban industrial capitalist sec
tor of labor-abundant, capital-scarce underdeveloped countries
is often relatively capital-intensive. This also contributes to less
than full employment of the abundant labor force, because
capital-intensive production techniques usually result in a low
marginal product of labor after the first few workers are hired. As
can be seen in the graph in the previous section of this paper, the
marginal product of labor curve (NR) declines rapidly as the
quantity of labor is increased. Ceteris paribus, the lower the
marginal product of labor, the less labor will be hired. When the
low marginal product of labor is combined with the artificially
high market wage in such countries, the employment problem
becomes aggravated. The higher the marginal cost of labor and
the lower the marginal product of labor, the lower the resulting
profit-maximizing level of employment.
A wide variety of factors have been identified as respon
sible for the selection of capital-intensive production techniques
in labor-abundant economies. The most frequently cited alleged
cause is that for producing many products (steel is often cited as
an example) only one technique, which is a capital-intensive
one, is known, and it does not allow for factor substitution. In
other words, the one available production method for some
products is rigid with respect to factor proportions. For such
products, the underdeveloped labor-abundant country faces the
limited choice of either producing the product with the one
known capital-intensive technique or foregoing altogether pro
duction of the product. Underlying this lack of technological
choices is the idea that the advanced countries that were re
sponsible for the development of modern production technology
sought to develop production techniques suitable to their own
factor endowments. Thus, many production processes were
initially developed in countries where labor was scarce and
expensive and capital was abundant and relatively cheap; there
fore, the modern technology developed in such countries was
typically labor-saving and capital-intensive. Furthermore, tech
nological progress in advanced countries has typically been
labor-saving and capital-using, because relative factor prices in
the advanced countries motivated such innovation.
Secondly, there may be some products for the production
of which there are known to exist multiple technologies using
varying proportions of labor and capital, but, in practice, the
labor-intensive techniques may be unavailable to the country. If
the labor-abundant country cannot realistically rely on its own
limited supply of technicians to build the known labor-intensive
production method, its only choice may well be the importation
from more developed countries of an entire plant which contains
only the capital-intensive technology.
Thirdly, even when multiple technologies with various
degrees of capital and labor intensities are known and readily
available for producing some product, the price system gen
erally leads to the selection of only one technology. It will often
be most profitable to select the capital-intensive production
technique, given the existing prices of labor and capital and
given the past concentration in the advanced countries on tech
nological progress which is labor-saving and capital-using.
Even in a labor-abundant, capital-scarce economy, the private
cost of capital may be sufficiently cheap relative to the private
cost of labor (the prevailing wage) such that the capital
intensive method will be selected. On the labor cost side, as
discussed in the previous section, the private cost of labor may
be artificially high for any or a combination of the reasons
discussed earlier. Other non-wage but labor-related considera
tions which also encourage the choice of capital-intensive pro
duction methods are the potential problems and accompanying
costs associated with the employment of labor
; capital
intensive techniques may permit control over workers and, in
particular, may minimize future disruptions caused by strikes or
other forms of labor militancy. In addition to labor cost consid
erations, there are a variety of factors relating to policies that are
both internal and external to the country that may artificially
lower the absolute and relative cost of capital. These factors
include subsidized capital prices due to tax provisions such as
generous investment allowances and rapid depreciation, inter
nal monetary and banking policies that have the effect of keep
ing the price of capital low, internal interest rate structures
which favor acquisition of capital by large enterprises and
provides such capital at lower interest rates than are available to
smaller enterprises engaged in less capital-intensive activities,
over-valued exchange rates which reduce the cost of imported
machinery, and world money markets which provide capital at
interest rates considerably below domestic rates. 10
Finally, even in those cases where labor-intensive produc
tion techniques are available and the relative factor prices would
economically lead to the selection of labor-intensive tech
nologies, non-economic criteria may dictate the adoption of
capital-intensive production methods. It has been suggested that
capital-intensive technologies are "often pushed upon the recip
ient country by inappropriate policies of foreign and interna
tional aid donors." II Also, engineers and top management may
be willing to forego some profits in order to achieve the pride
associated with using sophisticated capital-intensive production
methods. 12 Similarly, when it is the public sector itself select
ing technology, the government may also prefer a showy,
highly advanced production method that can serve as a source of
pride among the population and/or for display to foreign gov
ernments and peoples. Eckstein reports that this was part of the
reason why capital-intensive methods of industrial technology
were stressed in China during the first five-year plan.
The capital intensive bias was undoubtedly reinforced by
certain non-economic, psychological, and prestige factors,
which placed a great premium upon large, showy projects
that could stand as outstanding symbols of industrial pro
gress both for the population at home and for projecting an
image of a powerful and rapidly industrializing China
abroad. 13
,Labor Utilization in China
Since the Communists came to power in 1949, China has
gradually developed a set of institutions and policies that to
gether have enabled China to largely avoid the general unem
ployment and underemployment problems that continue to exist
in underdeveloped labor-abundant capitalist countries. How
ever, China's success in utilizing its huge potential labor force
was not immediate. Rather, in the early years after the founding
of the People's Republic of China, there continued to be both
open unemployment in the cities and underemployment of labor
in the rural areas, especially during the slack agricultural sea
sons. The urban unemployment persisted throughout most of
the period of the first five-year plan (1953-1957), during which
time there was a shift of population from rural to urban areas,
and when China's economy was still recovering from the de
struction and neglect brought about by the many years of civil
and foreign wars.
During the Great Leap Forward period
(1958-1960), China's labor force was, if anything, overutilized,
but urban unemployment recurred during the "Crisis Years" of
the early 196Os,I5 when substantial declines in agricultural
production (brought about at least in part by a series of droughts,
floods, pests, etc.) caused input shortages in the industrial
sector. There also appears to have been some urban industrial
underemployment (but not open unemployment and probably
no more than in previous years) of labor during the height of the
Cultural Revolution.
The 1970s appeared to have been years of relatively full
labor utilization. Until the last few months China did not admit
to the existence of any unemployment during the 1970s, and
foreign visitors' questions on the subject typically were re
sponded to with reference to the government guarantee of the
right of employment to all citizens or by stating that China's
ability to avoid unemployment demonstrates the superiority of
China's social and economic system. However, in recent
months, various official Chinese speeches and documents have
discussed China's unemployment and ways to lessen it. For
example, Hua Guofeng' s "Report on the Work of the Govern
ment, " which was delivered at the Second Session of the Fifth
National People's Congress on June 18, 1979, stated that,
"Because of the interference and sabotage by Lin Biao and the
gang of four, economic and other development in the past
decade has been slow, and now the people waiting for work
outnumber the available jobs." 16 The 1979 National Economic
Plan calls for the state to employ seven and one-half million
more people and cites the collectively-owned handicraft and
service industries as ones in which additional employment op
portunities will be created. 17 While the government does not
promise an immediate end to unemployment, it has stated that,
"Through many different ways, all those waiting for jobs can be
gradually and suitably placed.' '18
The development of many of China's current institutions
and policies that have promoted relatively full labor utilization
lacked smoothness, as China experimented with different ap
proaches abandoned or modified ones that were unsuccessful or
conflicted with ideological and other considerations. However,
many of the current institutions and policies had their begin
nings in the Great Leap Forward Strategy of the late 1950s,
although some have undergone substantial modification and
operate today in a more rational, less extreme form than when
they were first introduced. Most of these policies operated fairly
continuously between the aftermath of the Cultural
and the current period. The extent to which these policies will be
modified in the post-Mao era by the new development-oriented
leadership of Chairman Hua Guofeng and Vice-Premier Deng
Xiaoping remains uncertain. However, several of the policies
stressed by the new regime may well have substantial adverse
consequences for China's employment situation; if these conse
quences begin to be realized, the policies themselves may be
modified or abandoned. Emphasis on "rationalization" is one
such policy. There have been several recent reports that, as part
of the newly announced three-year program of "readjustment,"
perhaps thousands of inefficient plants may be closed and their
material resources transferred to modem, larger-scale plants. It
has been estimated that this might leave as many as 20 million
workers temporarily unemployed while they are either being
transferred to other jobs or retrained in advanced technology. 19
At the same time, it appears that many of the policies that have
played a major role in utilizing China's huge rural labor force
are to be continued in the post-Mao period. In discussing these
policies below, whereever possible, indications of their con
tinuation or modification under China's new leadership will be
1. Sectoral Labor Absorption
In his model of economic development for countries char
acterized by surplus labor, W. Arthur Lewis proposed that
development proceed by progressively over time absorbing the
available surplus labor into production in the expanding urban
capitalist sector. 20 In sharp contrast to Lewis' proposed sectoral
surplus labor absorption, China has sought to and succeeded in
utilizing its abundant labor force primarily in the rural agri
cultural sector. While the population of China's urban areas
have grown since the Revolution, China has sought to stem and,
at times, even reverse this trend. Official Chinese government
sources over the past decade have consistently expressed the
desire to maintain the existing rural-urban population distribu
tion, with 80 percent of the pqpulation in the rural agricultural
sector and 20 percent in the urban areas. Despite the forces that
induce labor to move from rural to urban areas in all developing
countries (such as higher incomes, greater availability of goods
and services, less physically demanding work, and the excite
ment ofthe cities), China has controlled rural to urban migration
through a variety of policies that severely limit labor's mobility.
The most unusual of these policies used in China, espec
ially since the 196Os, is that of "xia fang," under which urban
residents are assigned jobs in the countryside. Some transfers
were undertaken as part of the Anti-Rightist Campaigns to
re-educate erring intellectuals and cadres through a limited
period of manual labor and to trim the size of the bureaucracy.
However, the largest and relatively permanent transfers appear
to have been motivated by a desire to reduce urban populations
and reverse the population migration from rural to urban areas.
This was done primarily by assigning to the countryside unem
ployed urban-raised youth who had just completed their formal
education. It has been estimated that the number of resettled
youth reached a peak of 16 million in the early 1970s and in the
last few years has been reduced to approximately 10 million. 21
Motivated at least in part by the extent of dissatisfaction of the
young people involved, their parents, and the local peasants, the
new post-Mao leadership has announced that future relocations
will be strictly voluntary. 22 This policy change may cause
additional pressures on urban employment unless urban jobs
expand at a rate sufficient to absorb all new entrants into the
urban labor force, and these pressures will be exacerbated if the
policy change is coupled with one that allows the rusticated
youth to return to the cities, as many already have been doing
illegall y . 2J
At the same time, however, the new government continues
to encourage the rural resettlement of urban-educated youth. In
discussing employment plans in his June 18, 1979 speech, Hua
Guofeng stated,
As to those school-leavers who should go to the countryside,
further efforts should be made to mobilize them to go, and the
villages and other quarters concerned should make suitable
arrangements for their well-being, take a keen interest in
their studies and healthy growth, and earnestly encourage
and help them to contribute their energies to building up our
socialist countryside. 24
In addition, there have been reports that some resettled youth
have been transferred to less physically-demanding work, espe
cially in newly-constructed rural factories. If these and other
measures succeed in making rural resettlement more desirable,
the new government may be able to maintain the current rural
urban population distribution and avoid the employment prob
lems that would result from a return to the rapid population
migration to urban areas that occurred during the early 1950s.
There have been no indications of changes in the other
restrictions on labor mobility that were successfully im
plemented under Mao's leadership. Government control over
the assignment of urban housing and the issuing of travel per
mits and ration coupons for such basic consumption items as
rice, cooking oil, and cotton has helped limit population move
ment not only from rural to urban areas, but also among urban
areas. Because the State can control both the supply and espec
ially the demand for labor, the government has the means
available, if it chooses to use them, to continue to determine or
maintain the urban-rural labor force distribution.
The decision under Mao to restrict rural-urban migration is
consistent with and may well be reflective of an evaluation by
policy makers that the marginal product of labor was higher in
the agricultural sector than in the urban industrial one. Such a
policy also has the advantage of avoiding the housing, social
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service, and food transportation costs that would be incurred
with a population shift from rural to urban areas. Continuation
of migration restrictions, despite the decision to end compulsory
resettlement of urban youth, may reflect recent evaluation that
expected increases in the demand for labor in urban areas
brought about by future urban industrial development can be
matched by net natural additions to the urban labor force, as the
urban-raised and educated youth complete their educations and
enter the urban labor force.
2. Rural Labor Utilization
China's current, rather complete, year-round utilization of
her huge rural labor force has been accomplished through the
adoption of institutions, policies, and incentives that have mo
bilized and allocated the rural labor force into activities de
signed to increase, directly and indirectly, China's agricultural
production both immediately and in the future. The organiza
tional changes represented by the transition from private to
collective agricultural production provided an institutional set
ting in which it became economically rational (from the view
points of both society as a whole and the rural workers them
selves) to utilize all available labor and to increase the size of the
labor force (especially through increased outside-the-home fe
male labor). With the establishment of the communes around
1958 as the predominant form of agricultural organization, the
primary institution was created by which rural labor could be
mobilized and allocated by means other than by tradition or the
market system. Changes in individual worker and group incen
tives enabled the rural labor force to be mobilized and allocated
and provided the motivation for workers to toil as long as their
marginal products exceeded zero.
a) The Institutional Framework of the Communes
The commune system was established to provide suffic
iently large organizational units to enable the agricultural sector
to accomplish its part of the Great Leap Forward. The com
munes were designed to mobilize the potential rural labor force
(especially the labor that was previously surplus) to engage in
the following types of activities: (1) to increase the traditional
labor-intensive inputs used for current agricultural production
(e.g., to increase the collection and application of organic fer
tilizer and increase the intensity with which the available land is
farmed); (2) to mobilize the available rural labor, especially
during the slack agricultural seasons when most labor is not
needed for current production, to engage in farmland capital
construction (e.g., terracing and leveling the land and improv
ing and extending irrigation and flood control networks); (3) to
produce more and better agricultural inputs (e. g., machinery,
chemical fertilizer, and bricks); and (4) to collectively process
more agricultural products, especially for consumption by
members of the commune.
The intent and effect of the Great Leap Forward strategy in
the agricultural sector was both to substitute labor for capital and
to tum labor itself into capital, without using much, if any,
capital in the process. Thus, in the rural sector, the Great Leap
Forward strategy called for the substitution of a relatively abun
dant factor (labor) for a scarce one (capital). 2S In addition, with
labor being used for land reclamation and improvement projects
and to increase the intensity with which the land was farmed, via
the extension of multiple cropping and inter-row cropping, the
effect also was to substitute labor for the other relatively scarce
factor, namely, land.
In addition to some substitution of labor for land, small
amounts of actual additional land were almost immediately
made available for agricultural production by the transition from
private to collective agricultural organization. Byamalgamat
ing the often small, privately-owned parcels of land into large
collective fields, the strips of land that had previously separated
the individual land holdings were brought into agricultural pro
duction. While the amount of additional land brought into
production may have been relatively small, any increase in
productive land should raise the marginal product of labor (so
long as labor is not taken away from other productive uses). At
the same time, some labor was released for productive ag
ricultural activities by the amalgamation of the private holdings
because the individual small strips of land were often widely
scattered, sometimes over several miles. Thus, the labor time
that was previously used in moving the peasant and his draft
animals and tools between his different parcels of land was
immediately available for more productive use. 26 The potential
for such a release of surplus labor through changes in agri
cultural organization was recognized by Nurkse, who advocated
that such released labor be used for other activities, especially
for labor-intensive capital construction projects. 27
The increased land and released labor discussed above
were accomplished in China with the formation of the agricul
tural cooperative (or collectives) that occurred prior to the
establishment of the communes. However, these cooperatives
were considered too small to serve as management units for the
large-scale labor projects envisioned by the Great Leap Forward
strategy, whereby often several thousands (and sometimes tens
of thousands) of workers were engaged in a single capital
construction project. Because of the much larger size of the
communes, they were more suitable for massive labor mobiliza
tion and allocation than were the earlier and smaller coopera
b) Incentives for Full Rural Labor Utilization
Throughout the entire economy, China uses an incentive
system that seeks to motivate workers through a combination of
individual and group material and nonmaterial (or "moral")
incentives. The nonmaterial incentives include patriotic and
ideological appeals (e. g., to build socialism and to serve the
people) and rewards such as peer approval, recognition, and
prestige, often accompanied by being designated a model
worker (or team or brigade, etc.) or receiving such symbols of
achievement as medals, red flags and banners.28 While the
Chinese leadership has sought and continues to try to instill
motivation by such non-material incentives, material ones have
continued to play an important role. While stating that primary
reliance is on moral encouragement, the post-Mao leaders have
stressed the appropriateness of motivation by material incen
tives in a socialist economic system; recent articles and speeches
have sought to explain Marxist-Leninist theoretical justifica
tions for the use under socialism of distribution according to
labor contribution and have attacked the Gang of Four's alleged
opposition to and interference with the implementation of this
socialist distribution principle. The new leadership also has
initiated several new material incentive policies to implement
this distribution principle. 29
With the establishment of collective agricultural produc
tion within the communes, there was a strengthening of the
material incentives for individual workers and groups of work
ers within the communes (e.g., in the production teams) to
employ available labor as long as its marginal product is posi
tive. For the most part, the production team, brigade, or com
mune cannot select the size of its labor force in such a way as to
maximize its profits, as would be the case under privately
owned forms of agricultural organization.
0" Rather, workers
belong to a production team which has associated with it a fixed
amount of land. Given that each production team has a fixed
amount f land and labor, it is in the team's interest to maximize
net team output and thereby maximize average net output and
income per team member. This will be accomplished only by
full utilization of the production team's labor and land. As long
as the marginal product of a team member's labor is positive, the
employment of that worker raises per capita income, even
though the worker's marginal product may be very low. As
stated by Stavis,
... the collective units have a fundamental obligation to
provide work, food, and income to all members; a team
leader cannot dismiss the members of a team when labor
begins to have a declining marginal profit. As long as incre
ments in labor have positive productivity, no matter how
small, it makes sense to use that labor. Thus the collective
system ofownership makes it profitable to utilize more labor
than would be used under private ownership, where workers
could be dismissed and would have to seek new employ
As pointed out earlier in reference to the Lewis model,
such full utilization of labor will reduce the amount of leisure
consumed. However, it appears that the incentive system in
China has increased the relative cost of leisure and reduced the
marginal utility of leisure beyond some point. By consuming
more leisure than his fellow team members, a worker foregoes
additional work points and thus his individual share of collective
earnings is reduced. 32 In addition, the worker who spends fewer
hours working may be considered by his peers to be lazy, not
doing his fair share of the work, and not contributing as his peers
think he should to the development of socialism. If so, such a
worker will probably be subject to peer disapproval and criti
cism, which will likely reduce the marginal utility of his above
average leisure hours.
The material incentive for production teams to use all
available labor to maximize current agricultural output is fairly
obvious. If all available labor is used to plow fields and to
transplant, cultivate, irrigate, and harvest the crops, and if the
marginal product of labor is positive in each of these activities,
then the team's income and the average income of team mem
bers will be higher than otherwise. A similar, but delayed
material incentive exists for production team members to work
on farmland capital construction projects, as long as the ex
pected marginal product of labor in such projects exceeds zero
and such work does not decrease current team production by an
amount larger than the discounted present value of the increased
future production. The major difference is that the relevant time
frame for determining the expected value of the marginal pro
duct of labor in capital construction projects is in future ag
ricultural production periods, rather than in the current period.
For example, if a production team uses the available labor of its
members during the slack agricultural periods (i.e., when such
labor is not needed for current agricultural production) to level
its fields, repair or extend irrigation ditches, or terrace hilly
land, then the team's total income and the average income ofthe
team's members, while not higher in the current agricultural
production period, will be higher than otherwise in all future
production periods until the capital is fully depreciated (in the
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real sense). Some projects like land-leveling will last indefi
nitely, while other projects like digging irrigation in
the fields will have fairly rapid deterioration. However, If the
workers expect that they and their descendants will continue to
use the land for at least as long as the capital lasts, and if the
workers do not expect that the future increases in output made
possible by such capital construction projects will be taxed away
by the commune or some level of government, then the workers
have a material incentive to engage in such projects.
Many of the capital construction projects are organized at
levels above the production team, because they require more
labor than is available from a single team and/or because they
will simultaneously benefit more than one team. In such cases,
an attempt is supposed to be made by the unit
project to share the labor costs among the production teams m
proportion to the expected distribution of future benefits from
the project. Such labor cost -sharing is to be attempted regardless
of whether the project is organized at the production brigade or
commune level or at the county level (which is used when the
project benefits and/or requires the labor of more than one
commune). 33
The level organizing the project prepares a plan specifying
the amount of labor to be provided by each subunit, for exam
ple, by each production team. The team usually
to participate in the project in the same manner as It allocates Its
workers among the other forms of agriculture-related work. 34
Usually, team members assigned to a construction project re
ceive work points from their production team, although some
projects are reportedly undertaken by "volunteer" labor. 35
When production team members receive work points for w.ork
on capital construction projects, the total number of work pomts
of the team from all its activities is larger than would be the case
if some or all of its members were not working on such projects
during slack agricultural periods. Because the output from cur
rent income-yielding team activities does not increase at the
same time as the work points from capital construction projects
are earned, the value of each work point decreases and, in
effect, the production teams themselves finance the labor costs
of such projects. The production team has the material incentive
to provide labor for such projects if it expects to reap
returns from these projects in proportion to the share of labor It
has contributed to it and if working on these projects does not
interfere with the team's ability to achieve current production
Griffin provides a reason why such labor-intensive rural
capital construction projects are not undertaken on a large scale
in most underdeveloped countries, despite the understanding in
such countries that it is technically possible to increase the rate
of capital formation by mobilizing underemployed labor, es
pecially during periods of seasonal unemployment. The reason
Griffin discusses is the difficulty of financing the labor costs of
such projects.
. . . few governments have been able to raise the tax re
venues necessary to finance a large investment programme.
Thus, real resources in the form ofunemployed labour have
remained idle. because governments have been unable to
amass the financial resources required to pay the wage
bill. 36
Griffin suggests that this financial constraint could be more
easily overcome if it were possible to employ the
unemployed rural workers at less than the going wage rate (as
Griffin puts it, if such workers could be induced to work on a
semi-voluntary basis).
This [providing labor on a semi-voluntary basis] clearly will
not happen if the capital assets created by the works pro
gramme are used to increase the income and wealth ofonly a
small number ofpeople. No one,for instance, will workfor
nothing-orfor less than the market wage-in order to dig
a well for a large private landlord . ... As long as land is
unequally distributed it will be diffiCUlt to undertake massive
labour-intensive projects, but once property relations are
altered, it should be both technically and'politically possible
to accelerate sharply capital formation in rural areas. 37
China has proceeded further than Griffin's suggestion by having
the production teams themselves finance the labor costs
projects through their own current earnings from other activities
in which they are engaged.
Recently, there have been some indications that this
method of initiating and financing rural construction projects
may be modified. In December 1978 the Central Committee of
the Chinese Communist Party adopted a series of economic
policies aimed at providing more material incentives for in
creased agricultural production by "respecting the rights of
production teams" and "lightening the burden on the produc
tion teams and peasants."38 One of the state policies is that
"The manpower, funds, products and materials of production
teams are not to be used without compensation. "39 The discus
sions of this policy have cited examples of counties, communes,
and production brigades exploiting production teams by de
manding that teams provide labor, funds and materials for rural
capital construction projects. The new policy stresses that coun
ties, communes and production brigades must both obtain per
mission from the production teams involved and provide ade
quate compensation for such work. The emphasis on obtaining
permission from the production teams may indicate that some
teams were previously compelled to provide labor for construc
tion projects when the teams needed their own labor for current
production or when the construction project provided inade
quate or no future returns to the teams. It remains unclear if the
compensation required by the new policy can take the form of
future increased output made possible by farmland construction
(as was the earlier policy) or if the new policY,actually requires
payment for labor services at the time they are used. the
former interpretation, the new policy is merely a way to Imple
ment what was supposed to have been the policy previously, as
it only ensures that the material incentive will exist for produc
tion teams to provide labor for such projects. However, if the
latter interpretation is correct, the new policy may result in a
significant decrease in rural capital construction.
c) Labor Utilization and Labor Shortages
China has been utilizing its rural labor force primarily in
the following three types of activities: (I) current agricultural
production, (2) rural capital construction projects, and (3) rural
industries, which tend to be small-scale and labor-intensive.
Current agricultural production absorbs almost all available
labor during the peak agricultural periods, especially planting
and harvesting times. As discussed previously, rural capital
construction projects are primarily designed to employ rural
labor during the slack agricultural seasons when the labor is not
needed for current agricultural production. 40 Thus, capital con
struction projects serve as a residual activity that utilizes what
ever labor is not needed elsewhere, and such projects can often
be stopped and started as labor is needed or not for current
agricultural production.
The extent to which China has used its seasonally surplus
rural labor force for capital construction projects is unique
among the countries of the world .. 'The aim of capital construc
tion of farmland is to create fields that give high and stable
yields in spite of flood or drought, in general minimizing natural
reverses and guaranteeing a steady crop increase ... by rear
ranging mountains, rivers, fields, forests and roads, with em
phasis on field improvement and water conservation. "41 In
estimating the volume of labor used in such projects, Ullerick
states that,
... Since 1960, each year not less than sixty million people,
and since 1970 one hundred million people and often more.
have turned out in each winter/spring period for socialist
capital construction, averaging 60-100 work-days per per
son. This would yield a labor input ranging from 3.6 to 15
billion man-days per year. 42
The accomplishments are as impressive as the number of
labor-days involved. Lippit states that,
In the five months from October 1975 to February 1976,
more than 100 million people built new or improved irriga
tion facilities on 3.33 million hectares of land, added drain
age facilities on 1.66 million hectares, leveled 6 million
hectares offields, terraced 1.26 million hectares, improved
! .53 million hectares oflow-yieldfields, and reclaimed 0.33
million hectares of land, These figures compare to a total
arable land area of some 107 million hectares. 43
Various specific examples of rural capital construction
projects provide a good indication of the interrelationships
among numerous different-sized projects that are completed
over various lengths of time and the effect such projects have on
agricultural output. Two consecutive issues of Beijing Review in
1978 focused upon the construction projects in Taoyuan County
in Hunan Province.
Over the past 28 years, altogether 41,000 projects offarm
land capital construction have been completed in the county.
Some ofthem werefairly large ones, such as the 600-million
cubic-metre reservoir, but most were small endeavors, such
as planting narrow strips of land with trees, digging canals,
building roads and small reservoirs . .. In the past seven
years, 240,000 peasants, on the average, engaged in farm
land capital construction in each winter-spring period. Al
together 280 million workdays were devoted to this work . ..
The county's grain output went up from 247,000 tons in 1965
... to 461,000 tons in 1976 ... In the same period,
marketable grain Taoyuan provided the state increasedfrom
55,000 to 132,000 tons. 44
Another better-known example of a very difficult capital
construction project is provided by the Red Flag Canal, which
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was a I O-year project begun in 1960 that now irrigates, via 1500
kilometers of waterways, 100,000 acres of farmland in the
previously drought-ridden county of Linxian. 45
It seems clear that the post-Mao leaders will continue to
encourage rural capital construction. The 1976-85 economic
plan calls for the reclaiming of over 13 million hectares of
wasteland which is two-thirds the amount of land reclaimed
since the Chinese Revolution and will expand China's culti
vated acreage by one-eighth. 46 As before, the emphasis on
irrigation will continue; China's irrigated farmland has already
increased since 1949 from 16 million hectares to over 46 mil
lion, and it is planned to increase to 60 million hectares by
The small-scale rural industries usually do not directly
employ a very significant amount of rural labor (usually less
than five percent of the rural work force
). However, such
industries are important in that they typically produce inputs
used for both capital construction projects (such as chemical
fertilizer, small walking tractors and transplanters, and simple
hand tools). Such outputs of rural industries are clearly comp
lementary to the labor used in current agricultural production
and capital construction projects. Other small-scale rural in
dustries process agricultural products (such as grinding and
milling operations).
While these three major activities are to some extent substi
tute ways of utilizing labor, they are also complementary and
often an increase in one of these activities necessitates or at least
encourages increases in the other two, although not necessarily
at the same point in time. For example, most rural capital
construction projects (such as terracing hills, leveling fields,
and constructing, improving, and extending flood control and
irrigation and drainage systems) not only utilize labor directly,
but they indirectly raise the demand for labor in the rural
factories that produce inputs used for capital construction pro
jects. When completed, most construction projects raise the
demand for labor in current agricultural production by increas
ing the amount of land that can be farmed (when terraced hills
are brought into production) or the intensity with which previ
ously used land can be farmed (when irrigation and/or drainage
systems allow for increases in multiple cropping and/or inter
row cropping). Consequently, more labor may be productively
used to plant, transplant, and cultivate the additional crops and,
at the same time, more labor is demanded than before to collect,
process, and distribute the extra organic fertilizer necessitated
by the extra crops. Similarly, the demand for labor in rural
industries is increased to provide additional inputs (such as
chemical fertilizer, tools, and machinery) required by the addi
tional land or by the increased inteRsity with which the land is
farmed. After the additional crops have matured, more labor
than before is demanded to harvest and transport them, and there
is an increase in the demand for labor in the rural industries to
process the additional agricultural output. 49
China's institutions and incentives for full utilization of
available rural labor in these three activities have been so effec
tive that in recent years there has been evidence of rural labor
shortages. Understandably, such shortages are most pro
nounced during planting and harvesting times when the demand
for rural labor is greatest. At such times, it is fairly common for
the rural labor force to be supplemented, but perhaps only to a
small extent, by available labor from nearby areas. Visitors to
China in recent years have witnessed instances of students, city
workers, party cadres, and People's Liberation Army troops
helping out during the harvesting and planting periods. During
such periods, not only is the demand for rural labor greatest, but
the speed with which one crop is harvested and the next planted
is of the utmost importance in terms of maximizing current
agricultural production in areas using multiple cropping; in such
cases, if one crop is planted too late, it may not mature in time
for the next crop to have a sufficient growth period.
When the supply of labor becomes the bottleneck to
achieving higher agricultural production, it appears efficient to
mechanize or semi-mechanize some of the peak-time activities
in order to reduce the demand for labor at such times to a level
equal to it-s available supply. In this way mechanization is a
substitute for some labor and a supplement to that reduced
amount of labor with which it is used. This is precisely the intent
of some of China's recent increases in agricultural mechaniza
tion. As discussed by Perkins,
. . . widespread mechanization of threshing . . . generates
peak time surplus labor . .. that can be used to prepare land
for a second crop and for its planting or transplanting.
Obviously, multiple cropping was going on in China cen
turies ago and did not depend on mechanization ofthreshing
for its existence. At the margin, however, peak time labor
. . . saved from manual threshing can increase the extent of
multiple cropping, and this is all the more true of a rapidly
moving margin. 59
In addition to threshing, peak-time labor shortages have also
encouraged increasing use of machinery for transplanting, har
vesting, milling, and transporting crops to market. While the
labor-releasing function of such mechanization is not the only
reason for its increased use, it seems to be .an important one.
Furthermore, since some of these types of machinery are pro
duced in the rural industries during the non-peak labor demand
times of the year, some of the demand for labor can be spread
out over the year, thereby allowing an increase in total ag
ricultural production.
Simultaneous Use of Multiple Technologies
Another policy that has contributed to China's relatively
full labor utilization is the simultaneous use of different tech
nologies ranging from the smallest-scale traditional labor
intensive methods through various intermediate technologies to
very large-scale modern capital-intensive ones. The use of
multiple technologies can be observed in all sectors of China's
economy and is notable in transportation, agriculture, and in
dustry. For example, in the transportation of agricultural pro
ducts from communes to nearby cities, while one observes the
use of a few large trucks and tractors hauling produce, most
products are moved on carts of small and intermediate size that
are pulled by small walking tractors, bicycles, mules, and
humans, and some relatively large and heavy bundles are still
carried by humans using only shoulder poles. In most agricul
tural field work, traditional labor-intensive hand planting and
cultivating dominate and hand plowing and harvesting are aided
only by simple tools, such as hoes and sickles. Yet, occasion
ally, one observes multiple technologies being used in the same
and adjacent fields; sometimes, plowing of a field is simultane
ously undertaken by peasants with hoes, water buffalo, and
small walking tractors. Similarly, in rural capital construction
projects in which a reservoir or canal is being dug, one some
times sees one large bulldozer moving earth next to hundreds of
people digging dirt with shovels and hauling it in baskets.and
wheelbarrows. In such activities, it appears that the intent IS to
use the available, relatively modem, capital to its fullest extent,
but to complete the task with labor using more traditional or no
implements at all.
In industry, for most ofthe years since the beginning of the
Great Leap Forward, China has encouraged, as one aspect of its
policy of "walking on two legs," the use of
multiple technologies for many reasons, rang 109 from Ideology
to aiding the geographic dispersion of industries. S I In most
industries, output now comes from different-sized factories
employing a wide range oftechnologies. For example, chemical
fertilizer is now being produced in the very modem, large-scale,
capital-intensive turnkey plants which China purchased in re
cent years from the United States, Japan, and WesteIn: Europe;
some is produced in medium-sized county-run factones usmg
intermediate technology, and the remainder is produced in
small-scale, labor-intensive factories run by the communes.
Similar examples can be fo.und in the iron and steel, electric
power, chemical, farm equipment, and other industrie.s. In
addition, multiple levels of technology are often observed 10 the
same factory, where some operations are highly mechanized
while others are done solely by labor without the use of any
Relevant to the subject of this article, an important effect of
the simultaneous use of multiple technologies is that it employs
more people than would be employed if only capital-intensive
production methods were used. In addition, because ofthe small
size of China's capital stock and its fixed nature in the short run,
output and per capita incomes are higher as a result of using a
variety of production techniques, especially given that the re
sources used in many ofthe small-scale labor-intensive factories
are not suitable for use in large-scale modem plants and that the
capital-intensive facilities normally operate at full
Currently, it seems that China's limited amount of available
modem capital is used where it is most necessary and produc
tive, but additional output is obtained using intermediate and
traditional technologies that are relatively labor-intensive.
The institutions and administrative measures that have
encouraged the adoption of multiple technologies have been
supplemented by China's price system. The Chinese have
priced capital in such a way as to reflect its scarcity relative to
labor much more closely than has been the case in the labor
abundant underdeveloped capitalist countries discussed at the
beginning of this article and also in the Soviet Union. S2 China's
policy of pricing capital high relative to the price labor
encourages the selection of capital-intensive technologies only
in those factories and activities in which capital is most neces-
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The post-Mao leadership's emphasis on achieving moder
nization and importing large-scale advanced foreign technology
is being interpreted by many as a movement away from the
policy of "walking on two legs." Similarly, the "rationaliza
tion" program that threatens to close inefficient plants also
supports the interpretation that the Chinese seek modem tech
nology throughout the economy. While such indications have
received much publicity, it is also the case that many small-scale
traditional technology plants will be retained for quite some
time, and new ones are still being encouraged. An article in the
July 27, 1979, reiterated support for continua
tion of the use of multiple technologies; the following was listed
as the first of several guide-lines for the economic development
of Jiangsu province:
Adhere to the principle of combining large enterprises with
small and medium-sized ones and' 'walking on two legs." In
other words, while building large modern enterprises, the
province should actively develop the small and medium-sized
ones which are less advanced in equipment and technology at
the present. 53
The same issue of Beijing Review discussed how equip
ment that was replaced in a state-run textile mill with new
imported modem machinery was transferred to a county-run
textile mill, and, in tum, the equipment from the county-run
mill was put to use in a nearby commune. The article concluded
as follows:
To realize the four modernizations, there is no doubt that
China must adopt advanced technical equipment as much as
possible. But it is also obvious that as the productive forces in
China's vast countryside and small towns are still low,
comparatively old and backward equipment will still be
useful for quite some time. When integrated with China's
bountiful labour force and rich natural resources, it will
continue to play an important role in boosting the growth of
the national economy in our country. 54
Volume XXI Autumn 1979 Number 2
A.SIVANANDAN Imperialism and disorganic development
in the silicon age
BASIL DAVIDSON The revolution of people's power:
notes on Mozambique 1979
CEDRIC ROBINSON The emergence and I imitations of
European radicalism
CHRIS SEARLE Grenada's revolution: an interview with
Bernard Coard, Deputy Prime Minister
Repression in the Philippines and in Guyana
Race & Class IS available to IndiViduals all 5ubSCIlptioll al 5.50/$12.00 per
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Thus, while China is seeking modernization, it appears
that China will not forego the increased production, employ
ment, and per capita income made possible by continued use
and expansion of small-scale, traditional production processes
that complement and supplement large-scale modem produc
This article has identified and discussed some of the im
portant ways in which China has achieved relatively full labor
utilization. Unlike most labor-abundant underdeveloped cap
italist countries, China has avoided the typical market failures
caused by an artificially high market wage and a capital
intensive technological bias that result in substantial unemploy
ment and underemployment of labor. China's institutions and
policies which are supplemented by a modified pnce system that
more closely reflects the social opportunity cost of the factors of
production have led to the adoption of multiple technologies
throughout the economy. It would be very difficult for labor
surplus countries that wish to continue market capitalism to
develop, implement, and administer a set of taxes and subsidies
which would generate full employment. Consequently, such
countries tend to forego some of the benefits of higher per capita
incomes and fuller employment that are realized in the People's
Republic of China. *
*The author wishes to thank the reviewers of this article for their helpful
comments and suggestions. An earlier version of this article was presented at the
27th annual meeting of the Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs in Lincoln,
Nebraska, October 21. L 978.
I. Labor" s social opportunity cost is the value to society ofthe production
sacrificed by not having the labor used elsewhere in the economy.
2. The marginal social opportunity cost of labor may not be preciseLy
eq ual to zero, for example, if a worker who was previously unemployed requires
additional calories of food consumption in order to work. However, in many
underdeveloped countries, at least some underemployed workers are actively
working (although unproductively employed), for example, in agricultrual
activities. Such workers may not require significantly more (and perhaps even
less) calories to perform alternative and productive activities.
3. And while the amount of leisure is reduced when a person is em
pLoyed, it is quite possible that the utility of the remaining leisure may be higher
than before because. by being empLoyed. the person has the money with which
to purchase goods and services which are complementary to leisure. Conse
quently. the decrease in leisure time may be partly or even compLetely offset by
the increase in the utility of the remaining Leisure time. In addition, leisure may
have negative marginal utility beyond some point. For example, it has been
suggested that alienation and loss of seLf-respect often accompany unemploy
ment. If so, then the loss of alienation and the increased self-esteem that
accompany employment may also offset the reduction of leisure time.
4. W. Arthur Lewis. ""Economic Development with Unlilllited Supplies
of Labor," The Manchester School of Economic and Social Studies, (May
1954), pp. 139-91. See also W. Arthur Lewis. The Theory ofEconomic Growth.
(London: George Allen & Unwin, Ltd., 1955).
5. Lewis initially refers to the marginal product of such labor as .. negligi
ble, zero, or even negative," but then he assumes it to be zero to ease the
exposition of his model. Lewis argues that its precise value is not of fundamental
importance to his analysis. The important point is that such workers consume
more than they themselves produce.
6. If family member surplus workers receive subsistence, rather than
APr, then W*=subsistence+c. As an economic model, the Lewis model
focuses on economic incentives (of which rural residents are assumed to be
aware) and does not deny the existence of other incentives for migration from
rural to urban areas. If nonwage incentives in net induce migration, then the
urban wage could be less than W* .
7. Two qualifications. pointed out by Victor D. Lippit. may apply. First.
achieving full employment may affect the distribution of income between
consumption and investment; if an increase in employment raises consumption
more than it raises income. investment will fall. Secondly. achieving full
employment may be associated with certain costs that might exceed the value of
the incremental production created by full employment. This might occur. for
example. if full employment requires the provision of housing and other social
services and increased food transportation costs for workers who migrate from
rural to urban areas to obtain productive employment.
8. These factors are pointed out in Vincent M. Barnett. Jr.. "Implemen
tation of Policies for Fuller Employment in Less Developed Countries," Edgar
O. Edwards, ed., Employment in Dneloping Nations. (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1974), p. 248.
9. Edgar O. Edwards, "Employment in Developing Countries," in
Edwards. op. cit., p. 29.
10. These factors are cited in Barnett. op. cit.. p. 248.
II. Ibid. p. 248.
12. Edwards, op. cit., p. 29.
13. Alexander Eckstein, China's Economic Revolution. (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1977), pp. 53-54.
14. See. for example. Eckstein, op. cit., p.173.
15. Ibid., p. 297.
16. Beijing Review. July 6. 1979, p. 20. Another stated cause of China's
current unemployment is the neglect of family planning prior to the 1970s.
(Beijing Review. August 3, 1979. p. 3). It appears to be educated people-the
ranks of which have swollen by the late 1970s- who cause special problems of
under and unemployment. Since' 'going to the countryside" to do manual work
in agriculture is no longer being pushed, the Chinese may have to rely on
administrative controls to deal with labor force unemployment if local industry
does not continue to grow and create jobs for specialists and other trained
persons while agriculture is being mechanized.
17. Beijing Review, July 20, 1979, p. 16. Emphasis is being placed on new
job creation in labor-intensive, collectively-owned enterprises, because "with
little investment these enterprises can take in a large number of workers. and the
advantage is that since they are responsible for their own profits and losses, the
state's payroll will not be affected" (Beijing Review. August 3. 1979. p. 3).
18. Beijing Review. July 6, 1979. p. 20. .
19. The Wall Street Journal. May 3, 1979.
20. See note 4 above.
21. The Des Moines Register. February 10. 1979. For estimates of the
number of persons transferred to the countryside at various times since the
1950s. see Charles P. Cell. "Deurbanization in China; The Urban-Rural Con
tradiction." Bulletin ofConcerned Asian Scholars. (Vol. II, No. I. July-March
1979). pp. 62-72.
22. Cell. op. cit., p. 69.
23. Newsweek (International Edition. June 25. 1979). p. 40.
24. Beijing Review. July 6. 1979. p. 20.
25. This corresponds to Nurkse's proposal for converting surplus labor
into capital. See Ragnar Nurkse. Problems of Capital Formation in Underde
veloped Countries (Fairlawn. N.J.: Oxford University Press. 1953) and "Ex
cess Population and Capital Construction." Malayan Economic Review (Oc
tober 1957). pp. I-II.
26. For a fuller discussion of this. see Eckstein. op. cit.. p. 52.
27. See references in note 25 above.
28. Eckstein, op. cit . p. 37 and Frederick W. Crook. "The Commune
System in the People's Republic of China. 1963-74." Joint Economic Commit
tee. Congress of the United States. China: A Reassessment of the Economy
(Washington. D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Otfice. July 10. 1975). p. 397.
29. For discussions of the appropriateness of and policies to achieve this
distribution principle, see the last two years' issues of Peking Review. es
pecially: February 7. 1978; May 5, 1978; August 4. 1978; August 18. 1978;
April 20. 1979; and June I. 1979.
30. This statement is qualified because production teams may have an
opportunity from time to time to slightly diminish the sizes of their work in
commune or county factories as the demand for labor in these activities expands.
31. Benedict Stavis. People's Communes and Rural Development In
China (Ithaca: Cornell University. November 1974). pp. 150 and 152. Stavis
references Kang Chao. Agricultural Production in Communist China. /945
1965 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 1970). pp. 37 and 47 and says
that the argument is drawn from Georgescu-Roegen.
32. Also. at least in some production teams since the Cultural Revolution.
work points have been allocated among production team members on the basis
of political attitude. rather than according to the quantity and quality of the
peasants' work. Under this system. the relative cost of leisure is even higher.
since peasants who consumed above average amounts of leisure would likely be
considered to have poor attitudes and thus would earn fewer work points per unit
of time worked. This practice is now being characterized as "ridiculous"
(Beijing Review. April 20. 1979).
Of course there is one other alternative. A worker may choose to work on
private plots while others may rest. in which case the private production may
increase more rapidly and. potentially. in contlict with collective production.
33. Some projects. however. are instead financed by various levels of
34. Stavis, op. cit.. pp. 83-84 mentions that sometimes production teams
assign people from the "Five Bad Elements" to construction work since this
type of work usually is more physically demanding than other production team
35. It is unclear what the term "volunteer" means in such instances.
36. Keith Griffin. "Rural Development: The Policy Options." Edwards.
op. cit . p. 189.
37. Ibid .. pp. 189-90.
38. Beijing Review. July 28. 1978 and April 20. 1979 and China Recon
structs. August 1979.
39. Beijing Review. April 20. 1979. p. 15.
40. Usually about 95% of the work required for rural capital construction
projects is done by commune members during the slack seasons; the other 5% is
undertaken by workers organized into year-round construction teams (China
Reconstructs. April 1979. p. 56)
41. China Reconstructs. April 1979. pp. 55-56.
42. Curtis Ullerich. Rural Employment & Manpower Problems in China
(Hamburg: M.E. Sharpe. 1979). p. 80. Ullerich's estimates are based on figures
given in Beijing Review. October 31. 1975. p. 7 et. seq.
43. Victor D. Lippit . 'The Commune in Chinese Development . Modern
China. (Vol. 3. No.2. April 1977). p. 239. Lippitcites Daily Report. April 12.
1976: E II for his figures.
44. Beijing Review, July 21. 1978. pp. 16-19 and July 28. 1978. pp.
45. Details of the construction of this project can be found in Lin Min. Red
Flag Canal (Peking: Foreign Language Press. 1974).
46. Beijing Review. June 30. 1978, p. 10.
47. China Reconstructs. April 1979. p. 55 and August 1979. p. 24.
48. See the American Rural Small-Scale Industry Delegation (Dwight
Perkins. Chairman), Rural Small-Scale Industry in the People's Republic of
China (Berkeley: University of California Press. 1977) for estimates of the
amount of labor used in such industries (PP. 212-218) and for a detailed
descri ption of such industries.
49. These examples of the interrelationships in the demand for labor
among the three categories of labor-utilizing activities assume that the new
capital does not embody new technology which is sufficiently labor-saving as to
negate the generally beneficial effect of increased capital on the marginal
product of labor.
50. Perkins. op. cit., p. 205.
51. For a discussion of the reasons for the use of multiple technologies in
industry and especially for a discussion of the perceived benetits of small-scale.
traditional-technology industries. see Harry Magdoff. "China: Contrasts with
the U.S.S.R .. " Monthly Review (July-August 1975) pp. 12-57. For a simple
model which seeks to explain some of the relevant factors that appear to have in
tluenced China' s choice of multiple technologies and for a discussion of some
factors common to developing countries that help explain the simultaneous use
of multiple techniques of production. see Carl Riskin. "Local Industry and
Choice of Techniques in Planning of Industrial Development in Mainland
China." United Nations Industrial Development Organization. Planning for
Adn,Jf/ced Skills and Technologies. Industrial Planning and Programming
Series. No.3 (Vienna: UNIDO. 1979). pp. 171-80 and "Small Industry and the
Chinese Model of Development." Chinl1 Quarterly. (Vol. 46. April-June
1971). pp. 245-273. Also. for a detailed discussion of rural small scale industry
see reference in note 48 above.
52. Eckstein. op. cit .. p. 148.
53. Beijing Review. July 27. 1979. p. 6.
54. Ibid .. p. 18. 63
Cinema Reviews
"Saint Jack"
by Peter Bertocci
Billed as "a Casablanca for the 1970s," Peter Bogdano
vich's Saint Jack immediately evokes the Bogart classic. Ben
Gazzara plays an American expatriate living in Singapore,
involved fairly lucratively and with a definite panache in the
business of pimping for a stable of Asian beauties. As with
Rick, the hero of Casablanca, Jack's background and how he
got where he's at are initially obscure. He tells us that he's an
!talo-American from Buffalo, and we later learn that he came to
Singapore as a seaman, liked the place, and stayed to establish
his procurer's street mini-empire. There is, to be sure, the
Bogart touch. I have not seen enough of Gazzara's character
acting to know if this is his stock in trade, but if it is, then
Bogdanovich has selected him shrewdly for the lead role. If it is
not, then surely Gazzara has made a studied effort at reproduc
ing the smart-mouthed, straight-from-the-shoulder, tough-guy
with-a-heart-of-gold character which made Bogart famous. Un
like Casablanca's major protagonist, however, there is no sec
ret past which catches up with Saint Jack, no reappearance of an
old lover whose arrival on the scene peels back the covers from a
be shrouded past. All we ever know about Jack is that, for all his
gregariousness, his free hand with cash, and seemingly genuine
endearment to a host of Chinese acquaintances, he is a loner, a
"nowhere man" who abhors commitments, especially to the
women he attracts.
Thematic similarity to Casablanca is also evident with the
gradual disclosure of a certain nobility of character, rising
somewhere from the depths in an otherwise seemingly amoral
person, an "operator" par excellence in a world of vice and
degradation. The theme of repressed nobility, disguised' 'saint
liness, " added to the background of war and the exotic setting,
clearly links these two films. On the other hand, Saint Jack is
played out against the backdrop of the Vietnam debacle in the
mid-70s. There can be no heroes, only villains in varying shades
of gray, with none of the political simplicity which made so
admirable a context for Casablanca's dramatic impact. In these
respects, Saint Jack is "a Casablanca for the I 970s , " indeed!
But it is possible to also view Saint Jack in a broader
literary context, specifically that genre of novels dealing with
European and American colonial contact with Asia, of which
Anglo-Indian classics such as Forsters's Passage to India and
Orwell's Burmese Days are outstanding representatives. Such
novels, according to one critic whose ideas make sense,
efforts of European (in the case of India, British) writers to ask
the questions, who are we? and what are we doing here? Saint
Jack also evokes Graham Greene's The Quiet American, which
explored what Greene saw as the mindless and ultimately disas
trous American naivete in the early, fateful days ofour Vietnam
entanglement, set against the larger background of jaundiced
European colonial weariness. And through prophetic
vision we may further link Saint Jack then to the spate of what
might be called "Vietnam post mortem" films currently hitting
American theaters: Coming Home, Who'll Stop The Rain?, Go
Tell The Spartans, The Deer Hunter, and Apocalypse Now.
Not unlike the Euro-American colonial contact literature, such
films at least, should be asking-similar questions:
Who are we? What were we doing there? And what must we
learn from that experience? Perhaps one way of linking all these
strands in Saint Jack is to focus on an obvious, top level theme in
this film: "You Can't Go Home Again."
First, of course, Jack Flowers (ne Giovanni Fiori) can't go
home again. A "nowhere man" who drifted into Singapore a
decade before the film's time setting, he remains financially
comfortable, but socially on the periphery of the local Chinese
scene. He can't go home to the States, certainly, without having
to work for a living like the rest of us, and without, therefore, a
fat bankroll upon which to base a life of comparative indolence
such as that he leads in Singapore. The classic expatriate, he is
truly a marginal man, not only to his home culture, but also, of
course, to that of his "adopted" country. For all Jack's "hail
fellow-well-met" sort of intimacy with the Chinese who co
inhabit his world, he is not one of them, and they gently remind
him of that. His dream of setting up his own brothel is thwarted
by a gang of Chinese hoodlums, as much, we get the impres
sion, because Jack is not a Chinese as because ofthe competitive
threat his operation represents. Thus, at one level, Saint Jack
focuses upon cultural marginality, and touches on the theme of
expatriate rootlessness and no return.
Further thematic evidence in this respect, linking Saint
Jack to Anglo-Indian literature, is supplied by a set of marvell
ously stereotypical characters, burnt out "old Brits," cast-off
former servants of empire, who also can't go home again, and
who hang on, forever doomed to a limbo of marginality, in
post-colonial Singapore. They eke out their days reminiscing in
constant debauch, their jokes and exchanges studded with allu
sion to "home" which no longer exists, neither that reflected by
, . the good old days" of British presence, nor the England which
sustains them only as a symbol of their former privileged "su
periority." Nowhere better is the post-colonial cultural disjunc
ture better recorded on film, to my mind, than in Saint Jack's
funeral scene, which has these old relics loudly chorusing an
Anglican hymn, while outside the church some Chinese are
performing their fireworks rite to keep the ghosts at bay.
William Leigh, the accountant from Hong Kong whom
Jack befriends, is similar in plight and early on we learn of his
desire to return to trout fishing in Gloucestershire. And it is his
death, just at a critical turning point in Jack's own career, which
pushes the film toward its dramatic denouement. At that point,
Jack's brothel has been destroyed, and he is serving as a man
ager of a vast' 'R&R" whorehouse-cum-playground establish
ment for VietnlUll-weary U.S. troops (all "kids"), the deal
arranged by one Eddie Schuman, a CIA eminence grise-type
played by Director Bogdanovich himself. Here, I suggest, the
thematic strands blend into a metaphor for the corrupt marginal
ity in Asia that the U.S. Vietnam involvement became.
In his role as playground impressario for Vietnam draftee
innocents, Jack experiences the first awakening glimmers of his
deeper moral self. His prior existence as an engaging pimp,
shepherding a stoically merry band of prostitutes, has not been
depicted as particularly corrupt-just routine, by no means
charmless, part of the Singapore scene. Now, however, Jack
finds himself in a far more insidious business, as he labels it to
Schuman, that of "fattening lambs for the slaughter." The
scene sequence here is startling with contradiction. Youthful
soldiers are busloaded in hordes into Jack's "R&R paradise,"
replete with hillbilly music, grass, booze and "broads," where
they sit and exchange horror stories about fire fights and frag
ging. Uneasy glitter set against the gory frame of Vietnam.
Whether the U. S. did, in fact, organize such establishments for
its troops is less important historically than the symbolic import
ance this has for the film, for it can be taken as signifying the
depth of American enmirement in Southeast Asia: we, too, at
that point, "could not go home again." And through Jack's
growing awareness we sense the deepening evil in all this. We
see, too, his rock-bottom self-restraints emerge as he forbids the
sale of heroin to his "guests"; to some levels, evidently, his
personal code will not permit descent.
Jack faces his final crise de conscience when asked by
Schuman to get into' 'dirty tricks" of a different sort. He balks
at, but nearly goes through with, a plot to ensnare in com
promise a potentially troublesome American politician who is
passing through Singapore on his way to inspect "the mess" in
Vietnam. This is Jack's last chance to make a killing and get
enough money to "go home" in the style to which he would like
to be accustomed. But, in the end, he does not "deliver. " Like
Bogart's Rick in Casablanca's finale, he emerges as saint and
hero. But unlike Rick, he must give up both the cake and its
eating. He mails the cremated ashes of William Leigh to his
friend's wife in Hong Kong and, in so doing, risks the same fate.
He gives up the "dirty money" which could have accomplished
his escape.
Thus, a classic West-East colonial encounter theme ren
dered plausible for post-Vietnam America in the 1970s. The die
is cast, what's done is done, and there's no turning back from it:
this has long been a staple in Anglo-Indian literature, and it was
foreshadowed for Americans in Greene's Quiet American.
What must we learn from our Indochina experience? In The
Deer Hunter, the answer seemed to be an isolationist reaffirma
tion of basic ties of kinship, community and patriotism, overlain
by a vague emphasis upon renewed reverence for life; hardly a
challenge to Americans to examine the enormity of their role in
Vietnam. In Who'll Stop The Rain?, the answer is bleaker: in a
corrupt sinkhole of a world, all that counts is primordial loyalty
to friends and family; nothing else is sacred, all else is tarnished:
a "me and mine first-ism" all too characteristic of the 1970s.
Saint Jack I think, reaches higher. Its answer seems to be that we
have been diminished as human beings and as a people. There
are some individual acts, or, by allusion, national courses of
action, which a deeply internalized sense of honor and shame
ought not to allow us to take. Set against the historical and
literary background of the Euro-Atlantic colonial encounter
with Asia, this may be what Saint Jack wishe-s to teach
For all that, though, Saint Jack shares a basic flaw with
several other "Vietnam post mortem" films. It depicts an
exceedingly narrow and negative side of Asians and Asian life.
Once again, they are seen as constituting a corrupt and vicious
morass, as whores, hoods and shady businessmen, all inter
related through a nexus of exploitation. Granted that much of this
flows from the setting of Saint Jack in the Singapore under
world. But the net effect of this portrayal of Asian cultures as
beset by corruption and cruelty, which, for instance, The Deer
Hunter and Go Tell The Spartans both give to the Vietnamese, is
to provide a cop out for Americans. They need not assess the
moral implications of their Vietnam encounter. Viewers may
say, "good riddance, they're all a corrupt lot anyway." They t
may attribute our " loss of innocence" to ill-advised efforts to
"help benighted people" who were always beyond the pale of
civilization. To date no film has been produced which grants to
Asians the depth of personality, the sense of moral struggle, that I
is granted the Western characters. Saint Jack, while more suc I
cessfully didactic than others in this respect, cannot claim to be a
truly educative and redemptive cinematic examination of the
meaning of the Indochiha war. It shares this flaw with the other
"post mortem" films. '*
"Apocalypse Now"
by Marilyn YOUDg
"Apocalypse Now" is Francis Ford Coppola's Viet
nam in more ways than he understands. It isn't just a
matter of the way the film's cost escalated to an astonish
ing $30 million, nor even the fact that the director didn't
know how to end it. The movie is Coppola's Vietnam
because it faithfully recapitulates the war in a much more
basic way: it is filled with lies, megalomania, self-decep
tion, high moral intent and real moral failure.
And yet no movie about Vietnam has or probably
will be made that so fully captures the look and feel of the
thing. It opens with the sound of insects, the screen
blank. Then there is a solid wall of jungle, green, misty,
obscurely menacing. Over the soundtrack of an apoc
alyptic Doors song, "The End," we see the struts of heli
copters silently sailing by, as alien, as menacing as the
jungle itself. Over and over again Coppola fills the screen
with helicopters -their sound, their grace, their power,
their terror. It is the visuals for Michael Herr's Dispatches;
a tone poem to death.
Twice the movie presents us with battle sequences
whose reality we immediately know in our gut. We've
seen cuts from them a thousand times in TV newsfilm,
but never the entire sequence. One, a helicopter assault
on an NLF village, begins from the perspective of the
village itself. Flagstoned threshing area, schoolkids lining
up, people at work in the field. The village is bright in the
sunshine, ordinary, peaceful. Suddenly there is the low
hum of rotors and, as the people scatter, some to bunk
ers, some to gun emplacements, the helicopter armada
appears over the horizon. Quite unnecessarily the sound
track booms the Ride of the Valkyrie. But never mind.
An audience of Americans is forced to witness how Viet
nam villages were destroyed, must catch itself as it feels
pleasure in the few helicopters that are downed by the
pathetically inadequate village defense force, must won
der why it hopes the girl being chased by a small helicop
ter gunship will escape being"dinged"even though we
just saw her toss a bomb into a HUEY evacuating Ameri
can wounded. In the midst of the assault, there's a TV
filmcrew (Coppola and friends) urging the Americans
not to look at the camera but to make it "look like you're
fighting." Finally the place is finished off with napalm,
dropped by extraordinarily elegant jets, and the screen
fills with its color, the theatre with the sound of its explo
sion. One feels exhausted, nauseated.
The other great battle scene is the reverse: the re
lentless pounding of an American military base. Incom
ing mortar fire tears up the night. No place is really safe,
the noise never stops, the eerie beauty of the black sky
exploding with light is counterpoised to the faces of
frightened young men, firing back into the night. You
feel it could go on forever, without meaning, without the
possibility of dawn.
In a third episode Coppola captures in miniature
Vietnam's reality. The navy patrol boat which is carrying
an American intelligence officer upriver to locate and
assassinate a rogue Special Forces officer stops a Viet
namese boat for a routine search. The family members
show their identity cards, make no move to resist the
sailor who boards and, with reluctance and violence,
searches their belongings. Suddenly a young woman
runs towards the stem, as if to prevent something from being
discovered. The men on the patrol boat open fire, killing or
fatally wounding everyone aboard. And then they discover,
what we had been dreading all along, that the woman was
protecting nothing of importance to the Americans- it was only
a puppy. The patrol boat proceeds Qpriver, the Vietnamese boat,
with its dead, drifts off.
But the power of these scenes is dissipated, consciously or
unconsciously, by the director himself. We cannot concentrate
on what is really happening in the airborne assault becaust:
Coppola, in pursuit of the Absurd, trivializes it. The attack is led
by a commanding officer in a Cavalry hat, whose objective is to
secure the beach outside the village long enough to force some
skilled surfers to ride the waves for his entertainment. Lt.
Colonel Kilgore's antics distract us from what is going on; they
do not illuminate the nature of Vietnam's insanity, they make it
into utter fantasy. In the patrol boat scene, our reaction to the
wiping out of the Vietnamese family is abruptly aborted when
two sailors struggle overthe boat's lone survivor-the puppy
threatening to pull it apart. The audience cringes against having
to witness such additional gore, is relieved when the dog
emerges unharmed, and its response to the destruction of human
beings drifts off, like the boat itself.
Perhaps Coppola wishes to portray exactly this, Macho
madmen like Kilgore in command of unparalleled destructive
forces, men who kill people and wax sentimental over puppies.
But the film doesn't really comment on this; it reproduces the
distancing effect. It is as if Coppola cannot face the very reality
he claims he wants to give us. He backs off into Kilgore's
silliness instead, diminishing his own achievement.
In general, critics of the film are in agreement that it
"works" for its first two hours, and fails miserably once we
finally get to Marlon Brando, moving in obese ethereality
amidst the wreckage of some old Paramount set for a movie
about "savages." (Coppola's twice-built Angkor-Wat fac
simile looks utterly phoney, despite its authentic jungle location
and the huge cost it took to build.) But the ending isn't tacked
on, it is integral to the entire film. The imagination that trans
forms Montagnard tribes people into headhunting worshippers
of a Great White God (Brando) has made the whole movie, not
just its ending. Coppola wishes to give us a sense of the "moral
dilemma of the Vietnam war." But since his consciousness
reproduces the dilemma, he cannot enlighten us.
So skilled at giving us an idea of what the war really looked
like, Coppola seems to wilfully resist understanding what it was
about. Instead of the actual confrontation between the American
government and the Vietnamese, we get the confrontation be
tween Civilization and the Primitive. Vietnam, it turns out, was
really about the heart of Western Man. Brando's Colonel Kurtz,
with his oddly lisping reading of T.S. Eliot, is the film's only
hero. Earlier we have seen the cold rational face of the war in the
person of the general who sends Capt. Willard on his deadly
mission. Willard briefly wonders how the general can make the
distinctions he does in the midst of so much sanctioned murder,
but the answer lies upriver. We next meet Lt. Colonel Kilgore, a
.. pretty good officer," whose obvious nuttiness does not disturb
his colleagues. What is so special about Kurtz then? We learn
that he had successfully assassinated several NLF double
agents, but this would hardly seem to justify killing him. No,
what the brass hold against Kurtz is that he has gone to the heart
of the matter. He spurns their lies, their hypocrisy.
Face to face with the jungle, worshipped by bloodthirsty
tribal people who, so far as we can see, live entirely on the steps
of temples literally encrusted with corpses and severed heads,
Kurtz looks into the abyss at the core of Western Man, the abyss
looks back and swallows him up. In case we don't understand
that we are dealing with symbols here, Coppola lets us see a bit
of Kurtz's library: there's the faithful Golden Bough, and a book
on ritual. After a bit the tribespeople slaughter a bull just as
Willard is chopping away at Kurtz. Both are necessary, willing
Before the sacrifice we are treated to a long speech in
which Kurtz explains himself. It seems he had participated in a
Special Forces operation in which schoolchildren were innocu
lated against various diseases. Returning to the village some
time later he discovers a neat stack of childrens' arms-the
innoculated arms, "without judging, without evaluating." Like
the Russian roulette sequence in Deerhunter, this is one NLF
atrocity I doubt was committed. But why is the speech intro
duced? What is the moral dilemma Coppola sees here? Surely the
only sense we can get out of it is that Primitive Man kills
cleanly, certainly, surely, and as an exercise in Pure Will.
Civilized Man, on the other hand, lies about what he is doing,
lacks Will (Pure Will anyhow), judges, evaluates and thus
makes mockery of what is really going on.
I have no doubt that the NLF committed atrocities, but that
is their moral dilernna, not ours. The United States did not
invade Vietnam because of severed children's arms. Perhaps
this is the main point. Coppola tries to discuss the moral dilemma
of Vietnam without ever attempting to understand how or why
we were there. He deals only with what happened once we were
there. And he tries to understand that wits the help of Joseph
Conrad's story of European imperialism in Africa. It is all a way
of looking without seeing.
In search of a moral vision, Coppola commits a gross
immorality: he takes his honest eye, which can make us experi
ence a helicopter attack or a siege, and he inflicts it with
cataracts. All that ritual nonsense, all that racist delight in gory
painted primitives, all that mumbo jumbo that Kurtz whispers
into the mystical evil jungle leads us away from understanding.
Coppola says that he found that "the ideas and images with
which I was working as a film director began to coincide with
the realities of my own life, and that I, like Captain Willard, was
moving up a river in a faraway jungle, looking for answers and
hoping for some kind of catharsis. "
Just as he seems to have experienced a personal catharsis in
making the film, Coppola hopes that enabling an American
audience to "look at the heart of what Vietnam was really like"
would "be only one small step from putting it behind them"
Leaving aside the value of putting Vietnam behind us (some
thing we have proved to be very good at without Coppola's
help), what is striking about Coppola's pious hope is its extreme
arrogance. Here is the real heart of darkness of Western Man, an
imperialism of the self that expropriates everything that comes
to hand. The entire war is rendered symbolic, a piece of Cop
pola's personal iconography. Vietnam's real jungle, its real
people disappear into a morass of metaphysical musings on the
meaning of Life and Death. Coppola actually hopes that his
pondering will function as well for us nationally as it did for him
personally. We are thus many times removed from the war's
reality: close contemplation of Coppola's journey is apparently
intended to yield universal meaning. Apocalypse Now, is to
Heart ofDarkness as Jaws was to Moby Dick, the manipulation
of symbols that once had real resonance for the sake of indi
vidual gain-personal aggrandizement in Coppola's case, just
money in Benchley' s.
More complicated than many revisionist texts on the war,
Apolalypse Now nevertheless participates in rewriting history
by essentially accepting the war as a given. In what remains the
best movie on Vietnam, Hearts and Minds, Walt Rostow is
asked the question, "why are we in Vietnam?" Rostow leans
back in his chair, face honestly quizzical and in a bewildered
tone replies: "You really want me to answer that? You really are
asking me that sophomoric question'?" Coppola asks it too, and
comes up with a sophomoric answer. We were in Vietnam
because of the evil that lurks in the human heart, because we are
all half in love with death, because of the "horror, the horror."
These are not answers but evasions. No matter how realistic his
battle sequences, by refusing to ask the real historical and
political questions Coppola can give us no honest answers about
the war. '*
Pinyin Roumaji to Wade-Giles Conversion Table
ke ko
k'e, k'o
k 110
Pinyin Wade-Giles Pinyin Wade-Giles Pinyin Wade-Giles Pinyin Wade-Giles
rna rna piao p'iao
shua shua xuan hsiian
mai mai pie p'ieh
shuai shuai xue hsiieh
man man pin p'in
shuan shuan
xun hsiin
mang mang ping p'ing
shuang shuang
mao mao
pu p'u
shui shui ya ya
mei mei
shun shun van yen
men men
qi ch'i
shuo shuo
yang yang
meng meng
qia ch'ia
yao yao
mi mi
qian ch'ien
song sung
ye yeh
mian mien
qiang ch'iang
sou sou
miao miao
qiao ch'iao
su su
yin yin
mie mieh
suan suan
ying ying
min min
sui SUI
yong yung
ming ming
qing ch'ing
sun sun
you yu
miu miu
qiong ch'iung
suo so
yu yu
mo mo
qiu ch'iu
yuan yuan
mou mou
qu ch'o
ta t'a yue yiieh
mu mu
quan ch'uon
tai t'ai yun yun
que ch'ueh
tan t'an
qun ch'un
nan nan
ran jan te t'e
zan tsan
nang nang
rang jang teng t'eng
nao nao
rao jao ti t'i
zao tsao
ne ne
re je tian t'ien
ze tse
nei nei
ren jen tiao t'iao zei tsei
nen nen
reng jeng tie t'ieh zen tsen
neng neng
ri jih ting t'ing zeng tseng
nong nung
rong hung tong t'ung zha cha
nou nou
rou hou tou t'ou zhai chai
ni ni
ru hu tu t'u zhan chan
nian nien
ruan huan tuan t'uan zhang chang
niang niang
rui jui tui t'ui zhao chao
niao niao
run jun tun t'un zhe che
nie nieh
ruo jo tuo t'o zhei chei
mn nin
wa wa zhen chen
ning ning
sa sa
wai wai zheng cheng
mu niu
sai sai
wan wan zhi chih
nu nu
san san wang wang zhong chung
nuan nuan
sang sang wei wei zhou chou
nuo no
sao sao wen wen zhu chu
pan p'an
shan shan xia hsia zhun chun
peng p'eng
shen shen
hsin zu tsu
pi p'i
shou shou
hsiu zun tsun
pian p'ien
shu shu
xu hsii zuo
tso 69
Books to Review
The following review copies have arrived at the office of the
Bulletin. If you are interested in reading and reviewing one or
more of them, write to Bryant Avery, BeAS, P.O. Box W,
Charlemont, MA 01339. This is not, of course, an exhaustive
list ofthe available books in print-only a list ofbooks received.
We welcome reviews ofother worthy volumes.
Vilho Harle (ed.): The Political Economy of Food (Famborough. Hants ..
England: Saxon House. 1978; distributed by Renouf, Brookfield, VT.).
John W. Dower: Empire and Aftermath; Yoshida Shigeru and the Japanese
Experience, 1878-1954 (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press. 1979).
Robert J. Smith: Kurusu: The Price of Progress in a Japanese Village, 1951
1975 (Stanford University Press. 1978).
Thomas R. H. Havens: Valley of Darkness: The Japanese People and World
War Two (W. W. Norton. 1978).
Keiji Nakazawa: Bare/oot Gen, A Cartoon Story ofHiroshima, Vol. 2 (Tokyo:
Project Gen, 1979; distributed by War ReSisters League. New York). .
Toshio Mori: The Chauvinist and other stories (Los Angeles: ASian Amencan
Studies Center, 1979).
Sueyoshi Ohtani: Who Is to be Tried:> Incident at Sagamihara (Los Angeles: ITS
Information. 1"78).
G. McCormack & M. Selden (eds.): Korea, North and South: The Deepeninli
Crisis (Monthly Review. 1978).
Sang-Chul Suh: Growth and Structural Changes in the Korean Economv.
1910-1940 (Harvard University Press. 1978).
Chin O. Chung: P'yongyang Between Peking and Moscow: North Korea's
Involvement ill the Sino-Soviet Dispute, 1958-1975 (University of Alabama
Press. 1978).
Harold Hakwon Sunoo: America's Dilemma in Asia; The Case ofSouth Korea
(Nelson-Hall. 1979).
Nathan White: U.S. Policy Towards Korea,(Westview Press. 1979).
McCann. Middleton. Shultz: Studies on Korea in Transition (Hawaii, 1979).
David A. Rosenberg (ed.): Marcos and Martial Law in the Philippines (Cornell
University Press. 1979).
Resource Centre for Philippine Concerns: Pintig: Poems and Letters from
Philippine Prisons Resource Centre. Hong Kong. 1979).
Amado Guerrero: Specific Characteristics of People' s War in the Philippines
, (International Associatin of Filipino Patriots. 1979).
Rad D. Silva: Two Hills ofthe Same Land: Truth Behind the Mindanao Problem
(Mindanao-Sulu Critical Studies & Research Group, 1978).
Mamoru Tsuda: A Preliminary Study of Japanese-Filipino Joint Ventures
(Foundation for Nationalist Studies, 1978).
Willard A. Hanna: Indonesian Banda: Colonllliism and Its Aftermath in the
Nutmeg Islands (institute for the Study of Human Issues. I '!78).
Harold Crouch: The Army and Politics in Indonesia (Cornell University Pre",
Ingrid Palmer: The Indonesian Economy Since /'i65 (Frank Cass & Co., I '!78).
Fang Xiu: Notes on the History ofMalayan Chinese New Literature, 1920-1942
(Tokyo: Centre for East Asian Cultural Studies. 1977).
Carl Trocki: Prince of Pirates (Malaya/Singapore) (Singapore Univ. & Ohio
Univ. Presses. 1979).
Joseph F. Stepanek: Bangladesh- Equitable Growth? (Pergamon Press, 1979).
M. Nazif Mohib Shahrani: The and Wakhi of Afghanistan (Seattle:
Univ. of Washington Press, 1979).
Josef Silverstein: Burma: Military Rule imd the Politics ofSWlination (Cornell
University Press. 1977).
P Seybolt & G. K. k. Chang: Language Reform in China (M. E. Sharpe,
I '!7").
Julia Kwong: Chinese Education in Transition; Prelude to the Cultural Revolu
tion (Montreal: McGill-Queen's Univ. Press. 1979).
Frederick C. Teiwes: Politics & Purges in China (White Plains. NY: M.E.
Sharpe. 1979).
Leo A. Orleans (ed): Chinese Approaches 10 Family Planning (White Plains,
NY: M.E. Sharpe. 1979).
Tzong-biau Lin. Rance Lee & Udo-Ernst Simonis (eds): Hong Kong; Eco
nomic, Social and Political Studies in Development (White Plains. NY:
M.E. Sharpe, 1979).
Michael Schaller: The U.S. Crusade in China, 1938-1945 (New York: Colum
bia Univ. Press. 1979).
Ida Pruitt: Old Madam Yin; A Memoir of Peking Life (Stanford. CA: Stanford
Univ. Press. 1979).
Henri Maspero: China in Antiquity (University of Massachusetts Press. 1979).
Silas H. L. Wu: Passalie to Power; K'ang-hsi and His HeirApparent, 1661
17:?:? (Cambridge. MA: Harvard University Press, 1979).
Johnson, Misra, Urs, Dwarakinath: People's China Today (People's Book
House, Mysore, India, 1979).
Bob Avakian: Mao Tsetung's Immortal Contributions (R.C.P. Publications.
Enver Hoxha: Reflections on China (Tirana: The "8 Nentori" Publishing
House. 1979).
Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding Working Group: China's World View
(London: Anglo-Chinese Educational Institute, 1979).
Mark Selden (ed.): The People's Republic ofChina (Monthly Review. 1979).
Te-kong Tong & Li Tsung-jen: The Memoirs of Li Tsung-jen (Westview Press.
J. A. Fogel & W. T. Rowe (eds.): Perspectives on a Changing China (Boulder.
CO: Westview Press, 1979).
James P. McGough: Fei Hsiao-t' ung; The Dilemma of a Chinese Intellectual
(White Plains, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe. 1979).
Janet Krompart: Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, Volume 5
(Columbia University Press. 1979).
Nicholas R. Lardy (ed.): Chinese Economic Planning: Translationsfrom Chi
Hua Ching-chi (M. E. Sharpe, 1978).
Gordon Bennett (ed.): China's Finance and Trade: A Policy Reader M. E.
Sharpe. 1'!78).
W. L. Parish & M. K. Whyte: Village and Family in Contemporary China
(University of Chicago Press. 1978).
Ralph N. Clough: Island China (Harvard University Press. 1978).
King C. Chen (ed.): China and the Three Worlds: A Foreign Reader
(M E. Sharpe. 197").
Samuel S. Kim: China, the United Nations. and the World Order (Princeton
University Press. 1"79).
M. J. Coye and J. Livingston: China: Yesterday and Today (2nd edition) (New
York: Bantam, 1975, 1979).
John King Fairbank: The United States and China (Fourth Edition) (Harvard
University Press, 1979).
A. D. Coox & H. Conroy (eds.): China and Japan: A Search for Balance Since
World War I (ABC-Clio, Inc .. 1978).
N .K. Sarkar: Social Structure and Development Strategy in Asia (New Delhi:
People's Publishing House. 1"78).
Theda Skocpol: States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of
France. Russia, and China (Cambridge University Press. 1979).
V. G. Kiernan: America: The New Imperialism (Zed Press. 1978).
Malcolm Booker: Last Quarter: The Next Twenty-five Years in Asia & The
Pacific (Melbourne University Press. 1978).
Jim Hyde: Australia: The Asia Connection (Kibble Books. 1978).
Asia/N. Arner. Communications Center: America ill Asia. Vol. I; Research
Guides on U.S. Ecollomic Activity ill Pacific Asia (Hong Kong. 1979).
Renato Constantino: Neocolonialldentit\' and Counter-consciousness (M. E.
Sharpe, '''7'').
1979: Volume 11, Numbers 1-4
Vol. 11, No. 1/ Jan.-Mar. 1979.
Stephen Heder: "Kampuchea's Anned Struggle; The Origins
ofan Independent Revolution. "
Appendix, Vietnamese letter, 1967.
Jack Colhoun: "The Tet Offensive" / review.
Baljit Malik: "I Wantto Live" / cinema review.
Norman Peagam: "Tongpan" / cinema review.
BalJit Malik: "Tongpan" / cinema review.
PlerreBroclleux: "To Each His/Her Own Vietnam" / review.
Appendix, Statement by Japanese Economists.
Tokue Shibata: "Urbanization in Japan. "
James Robinson: "The Problem of Balanced Economic
Growth In Developing Societies" / review.
CbarIes P. CeD: "Deurbanization in China; The Urban-Rural
Contradiction. "
Vol. 11, No. 2/ Apr.-June, 1979
Rob Steven: "The Japanese Bourgeoisie. "
Gary Michael Tartakov: "Who Calls the Snake Charmer's
Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman: "Benign Terror: East
Timor. "
Ridlard W. Franke: East Timor-Nationalism and Colon
ialism by Jill Jolliffe / review.
Ridlard W. Franke and Arnold S. Kohen: "Bibliography:
East Timor."
Susan Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society by
Gail Omvedt / review.
Betsy Hartmann: Jhagrapur: Poor Peasants and Women in a
Bangladesh Village by J. Arena andJ. van Beurden / review.
Vol. 11, No. 3/ July-Sept., 1979.
Jon HalUday: "The Korean War: Some Notes on Evidence and
Solidarity. "
Peter F. BeD and Mark Selden: "Malcolm Caldwell, 1931
Torben RetboD: "Kampuchea and the Reader's Digest. "
Helen Chauncey: Reaching the Other Side by Earl S. Martin /
RobertSaIasin:PekingPolitics, /9/8-/923 by Andrew Nathan
/ review.
Paul Clark: Urban Change in China, /890-/949 by David
Buck / review.
Victor Nee: "Towards a Social Anthropology of the Chinese
Revolution. "
Ng Gek-boo: "The Commune System and Income Inequality in
Rural China. "
Fred Herschede: "Higher Education and the Expansion of
Technically Qualified Industrial Workers During China's
Modernization, 1976-1985."
Vol. 11, No. 4/ Oct.-Dec., 1979
Anthony Barnett: "Inter-Communist Conflicts and
Laura Summers: "In Matters of War and Socialism, Anthony
Barnett Would Shame and Honor Kampuchea Too Much. "
Ben Kiernan: "Vietnam and the Governments and People of
Robert T. Snow: "Multinational Corporations in Asia; The
Labor Intensive Factory. "
Ulrich Vogel: "K. A. Wittfogel's Marxist Studies on China
(1926-1939). "
Tu Wei-ming: "A Note on Wittfogel's Science of Society. "
Hassan N. Gardezi: "South Asia and the Asiatic Mode of
Production: Some Conceptual and Empirical Problems. "
Jon Halliday: "Bibliographies on Korea. "
Jean W. Adams: "The Utilization of 'Surplus' Labor in the
People's Republic of China. "
Peter Bertocci: "Saint Jack" / cinema review.
Marilyn Young: "Apocalypse Now" / cinema review.

I. A good worker is one who is not a blabber during work
2. A good worker never looks at his/her wristwatch (time
3. A good worker is one who is honest.
4. A good worker gets along well with his/her co-workers.
5. A good worker is one who always is quick in his/her moves
and thinking.
6. A good worker is one who is a positive thinker. Never says I
quit but always "I'll try."
7. A good worker looks for advancement.
8. A good worker is one who is courteous and considerate to
9. A good worker never forgets the word "thank you" for a
10. A good worker is one who is respectful to his/her superior.
Source: From a packet of printed materials given to new workers at a Japanese
Filipino joint venture garment factory.
May 30, 1979
To the Editors:
During its meeting in November 1978, the European Co
ordinating Committee for Solidarity with the Thai People
(ECCSTP) decided to prepare to form an international commis
sion of inquiry of Thailand. This would be a way for us to
counter the efforts of the Kriangsak government to improve its
public image and attempt to get people to believe that the
military dictatorship, the violations of human rights and the
arbitrary repression were only associated with the former Tha
nin government. Actually, we believe that international opinion
cannot be deceived so easily.
Our plan is to organize an international commission which
would be able to gather a collection ofdocuments and testimony
that would convincingly demonstrate the dimensions of the
repression as it now exists in Thailand, and thus expose with
facts the mendacious statements of the Kriangsak government.
On this basis, the commission could ask to visit Thailand to
make an on-the-spot inquiry of the criticisms of the administra
tion, police and army.
In order for such a project really to materialize, it is first of
all necessary that the documentation that we will assemble be of
high quality. Then it will be necessary to call for the formation
of an international commission of persons or agencies with
recognized prestige. Such an initiative would lack credibility if
the solidarity committees, which are members of the European
Coordinating Committee, participated.
We expect to assemble documentation on a wide range of
questions concerning violations of human rights in Thailand:
repression pf trade unions, arrests, political imprisonment, as
sassinations, arbitrary sentences, military operations against the
civilian population, forced movement of people in connection
with military operations, destruction and burning of villages,
We believe that this documentary work will take consider
able time, perhaps a year will not be too long. We hope that the
work will be shared as widely as possible among people in
different countries. We would like to know if you would want to
be associated with this project. Ifso, we need to know as soon as
possible what contribution you could make in the preparation of
documentation, which must be accurate, detailed and verifi
able. Lastly, we would like to know what prominent persons or
agencies in your country would like to participate in the com
mission of inquiry and its work.
Committee for Solidarity
with the Thai People
c/o Luc Thibault
9 Rue du Dauphine
93600 Aulnay-sous-Bois, France
Oct. 12, 1979
To the Editors:
I wish to bring to the attention of your readership the 1980
Conference of the Canadian Association of South Asian
Studies, a part of the Asian Society meetings in May 1980 in
The Association Programme aims to bring a critical class
approach, with a historical perspective, to the political economy
of South Asia. The theme will have two major components: A)
an analysis of the political economies of the countries of the
region; and B) an analysis of the many struggles of the people.!...
past and present -directed toward overcoming the various
structural barriers in the economies and for creating abetter,
egalitarian society.
The theme will be divided into four headings: I) Political
Economy: Structural Features; 2) Political Economy: Super
structural Features; 3) People's Upsurge, 1857-1947; and 4)
People's Upsurge, 1 947-date.
Anyone with an interest in attending this conference or in
contributing a paper or organizing a panel, should write to me at:
CASAS/Sociology Dept.
Simon Fraser Univ.
Canada V5A IS6
Hari Sharma
One ~ y one, over ten years' time, we have been selling
back Issues of the Bulletin. For example, this summer
(1979) we sold approximately 675 back issues. If you
want a list of the available issues, write to us. In particu
lar, five (5) early issues which have been in stock for years
are now nearly out of print:
Vol. 2 #4 (1970): 50 copies left.
Vol. 4 #3 (1972): 150 copies left.
Vol. 4 #4 ( 1972): 150 copies left.
Vol. 5 # 1(1973): 50 copies left.
Vol. 5 #2 (1973): 35 copies left.
These issues will probably be gone by this time next year.
Vol. I, the rest of Vol. 2, Vol 3, #s 1& 2, and Vol. 7 # I
(the first volume of the Asian Women special) are already
If you want one of them, order now while the supply lasts.
Bulk rates are available. Notify your acquisitions librarian
and have him/her check your library listing.