Re-enacting Bandit Revolution in Hakka-land (Jinggangshan)

What it meant therefore to be a “Hakka roughian” or kejia greenwoods guerrilla varied at least upon one axis: education, and perhaps two more: personality (where Yuan was standoffish, Wang was always a favorite of his lads), and inclination to systematize even his predation, surely also his recruitment and sources of supply.

It was I suspect this gradation or multiplexity of leadership modes that drew Mao (though probably not so his immediate underlings, Zhu De, Lin Biao, and Peng Dehuai) into a prolonged flirtation with the hill-Hakka polity and its bosses. With Yuan he raked in an already large and mutinoded matrix of already formed kejia bosses with well-drilled soldiers (at their first meeting in 1929, Mao adjudged that they deserved at least 500 modern rifles, and reports are that over 800 followers were immediatelty inducted; for these, the financially competent Yuan reciprocated with a “payment” of 1,000 Y. Wang’s appeal is harder to gauge, but he was by all accounts the better connected outside of the Jinggangshan enclave (why?), and thus an invauable middleman. One Hakka bandit might be worth 1000 other Hakka bandits, or the reverse, depending on who recruited them. In Yuan at least there was already the making of an independent, ready-to-go rifle brigade (tuan), tactically the match of KMT or warlord units of similar size. Such units were hard to come by; and if sloppily recruited were worthless – would run before the first gun or sell their weapons to the bad guys.

To recapitulate: the self-dignified rebellion-prone Hakka (kejia) of the Jinggangshan and surrounding counties and in particular their indigenous, long on-the-ground self-defense forces (necessitated by “indigene” hostility) were unchallengibly the prize that drew Mao and Zhu into the hillcountry enclave in 1928, bandits or no bandits or no matter what mix of illicit activities were attributed to them. It was of course a two-way romance; Yuan and his allies joined up because they felt the need for a wider net and for coaching from the 3-4th Army command who had had a good year’s experience in learning to fight KMT regulars.

To that extent, the legend of the Jinaggangshan Base Area as First among Many in the S China hillcountry is no legend, and there is every reason why it should be commemorated with statues, a museum, and a son-et-lumiere show providing “correct” historical illumination of what their future military and leadership would look like.

Rare perhaps, but one of the even rarer Maoist monuments still inspiring a kind of awe and even pride, where almost everyhere else those ingredients are growing scarce.

(Perhaps they would be gone tout entiere if Deng Xiaoping’s “Opening” of China to unpoliced subcontract capital had not lowered party prestige so dramatically as to make Mao – now divorced in memory from his Party – a lingering object of reverence – for what might have been, what was lost? Or if the intrigueists always surrounding him had not so viciously driven the better of the montagnard-Hakka commanders to ground?)

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