Red Star Over China | Edgar Snow

“The victorious march of the Red Army, and its triumphant arrival in Kansu and Shensi with its living forces still intact, was due first to the correct leadership of the Communist Party, and second to the great skill, courage, determination, and almost superhuman endurance and revolutionary ardor of the basic cadres of our soviet people. The Communist Party of China was, is, and will ever be faithful to Marxism-Leninism, and it will continue its struggles against every opportunist tendency. In this determination lies one explanation of its invincibility and the certainty of its final victory.” p. 181

“I was mistaken. The Chinese peasant was not passive; he was not a coward. He would fight when given a method, an organization, leadership, a workable program, hope – and arms. The development of “communism” in China had proved that. Against the above background, therefore, it should not surprise us to learn that Communists were popular in the Northwest, for conditions there had been no better for the mass of the peasantry than elsewhere in China.” p. 216

“Chinese communism as I found it in the Northwest might more accurately be called rural equalitarianism than anything Marx would have found acceptable as a model child of his own. This was manifestly true economically, and although in the social, political, and cultural life of the organized soviets there was a crude Marxist guidance, limitations of material conditions were everywhere obvious.

There was no machine industry of any importance in the Northwest. It was farming and grazing country primarily, the culture of which had been for centuries in stagnation, though many of the economic abuses prevalent no doubt reflected the changing economy in the semi-industrialized cities. Yet the Red Army itself was an outstanding product of the impact of “industrialization” on China, and the shock of the ideas it had brought into the fossilized culture here was in a true sense revolutionary.

Objective conditions, however, denied the Reds the possibility of organizing much more than the political framework for the beginnings of a modern economy, of which naturally they could think only in terms of a future which might give them power in the great cities, where they could take over the industrial bases from the foreign concessions and thus lay the foundations for a Socialist society. Meanwhile, in the rural areas their activity centered chiefly on the solution of the immediate problems of the peasants – land and taxes. But Chinese Communists never regarded land distribution of anything more than a phase in the building of a mass base, a stage enabling them to develop the revolutionary struggle toward the conquest of power and the ultimate realization of thoroughgoing Socialist changes.

… The immediate basis of support for the Reds in the Northwest was obviously not so much the idea of ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’ as it was something like the promise of Dr. Sun Yat-sen: ‘Land to those who till it.’” p. 219-20

“But how did the peasants feel about this? The Chinese peasant was supposed to hate organization, discipline, and any social activity beyond his own family. The Reds laughed when that was mentioned. They said that no Chinese peasant disliked organization or social activity if he was working for himself and not the min-t’uan – the landlord or the tax collector. And I had to admit that most of the peasants to whom I talked seemed to support the soviets and the Red Army. Many of them were very free in their criticisms and complaints, but when asked whether they preferred it to the old days, the answer was nearly always an emphatic yes. I noticed also that most of them talked about the soviets as womenti chengfu – “our government” – and this struck me as something new in rural China.” p. 222

“‘Another source of income is from voluntary contributions of the people. Revolutionary patriotic feeling runs very high where war is on and the people realize that they may lose their soviets. They make big voluntary contributions of food, money, and clothing to the Red Army. We derive some income also from state trade, from Red Army lands, from our own industries, from the cooperatives, and from bank loans. But of course our biggest revenue is from confiscations.’

‘By confiscation,’ I interrupted, ‘you mean what is commonly described as loot?’

Lin laughed shortly. ‘The Kuomintang calls it loot. Well, if taxation of the exploiters of the masses is loot, so is the Kuomintang’s taxation of the masses. But the Red Army does no looting in the sense that White armies loot. Confiscations are made only by authorized persons, under the direction of the Finance Commission. Every item must be reported by inventory to the government, and is utilized only for the general benefit of society. Private looting is heavily punished. Just ask the people if Red soldiers take anything without paying for it.’

‘Well, you are quite right. The answer to that naturally would depend on whether you asked a landlord or a peasant.’” p. 230-31