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

But…. for good reason. Or several. Imagining epoch (epic) history from afar means sono-texture and costume evocative of the “place where”, and those appurtenances have long been recognized – not the least in Official/Party bio-history- as those of the “Guest People” of the highland South; as indeed (to pursue our devotionalism) does it also require a legend of sacrifice of or by the poorest or least beneficiary of the underclasses whose bloodshed seems a necessary rite of re-founding the US. (Though of course this subtext can become fogged over when, as since the 1980s, the rebirthing of “Us” comes redefined as by technological warrant and inhuman/Promethean transform).

Or perhaps it is even simpler than that: the (linguistic+) aboriginal whose family pedigree is deeply rooted in this marginal terrain where China’s first “Soviet” government was proclaimed must surely know the gist of the story: leave him and his forefathers(mothers) out and it will be very hard indeed for him to look enthusiastic when the Priest/Guide/Signpost reads the story out. State cults and misrepresentations can be built in defiance of Truth (as Stalin’s example reminds), but not when they are projected as Grand History intended to last for generations to come. No one of the modern Dictators (none indeed since Napoleon) has played this game of Faux-Reality in True-to-Life Costume with as much skill (and academic assistance) as Mao Zedong (though it probably came more naturally to him, as an almost hillbilly and undereducated “Thinker”). And nothing warrants his insight as much as the enormous staying power of his (historical) legend and “look”, somehow almost always populist or even stylized plebeian.

But What then of the Bandit(s) AND Banditry?

The above deeper truths aside, there remains one sticking point in the (authentic, and/orauthenticially enacted) Jinggangshan Narrative that has made and continues to make Marxists or even Liberals nervous about its indisputable hakka ethno-linguistic pedigree. (Nowhere, unfortunately, more obviously that in the overwhelming scholarship on pre-1937 rural communism in China compiled by the late Steven Averill…. details… ). That is the all too appropriate juxtaposition of “guest people” as a breed apart, on the one hand, with the tropes of moral ugliness, on the other: BANDITRY most of all, at least as that subjectivizing and often self-interested plaint habitually echoes from what we (of the radical ’60s) would call the “Law and Order” freemasonry of our slightly Su’then tinged armed classes’ roll-call.

As far as Marxist-Leninist orgspeak is concerned, retrospective elaborations of ….
seldom if ever use the terms tufei or huifei (indigene bandits or masonic-cell bandits) when recounting the details of absorption and retreading of spontaneously formed armed bands of … well, of whom? Much more commonly, such predatory vigilantes or irregulars
(no matter that their disrespect of (mainly) landlord property was necessitated by the need to feed and arm themselves without the benefit of “legal” assessments at the disposal of the landed rich) get orthodox attention/stature only (mainly) when circumstances force them into the role of “[rifle-carrying] village vigilantes” (cunmin or liancun wuzhuang), and even then only when (after) they have pledged loyalty to “regular” (non-local) Red military commanders.

Yet there can be no doubting that the pejorative(s) of “bandit(s)”, or bandit gangs, were in play in higher level Party/Army discussions about how to (en)treat them. And/or that the sotto voce labels were entirely appropriate given the core notion of “bandit” as elusive, evasive, man/hero/villain on the run, the original sense of “OUT (side of the) LAW.

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