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The Communist Revolution of China:
A Marxist Revolution?

Charlie Ma

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          Though the proletariat and the Chinese farmers had many similarities, this generalization however, does not suffice. Not only is the urban life of a proletariat worker quite different from those of a farmer, they also exist in a very different setting. Most of the farmers owned the plot of land which they worked on. They worked for themselves, their earnings were relative to their effort and skill. Aside from taxes, the farmers owned the harvests, and could do whatever they wanted with it. They had much more freedom than the industrial workers. The proletariat had to work long hours everyday, often with quotas to meet. The proletariat lived in dense cities where the unemployed could gather and discuss revolutionary issues; discontents could exchange ideas with intellectuals easily. The peasant farmers lived in a low density setting where work was endless, and intellectuals were scarce.

          A key distinction between peasants and workers are their relationship to private property. Farmers rely on their private property for wealth, it is essential to them. The proletariate rely on their labour for wealth, property is a luxury to them. They do not need the tools of production as the peasants do. One criticism of Communism which seemed so radical and unheard of was the concept of abolishing private property. Marx was not terribly concerned about this possible problem because of the conditions of the average European, especially from England or Germany. "You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine tenths." This reassurance however, only applied to heavily industrialized nations were the masses consisted almost entirely of the proletariate class, who owned little more than what they wore. In China's case, the nine tenth of the population were peasant farmers instead. The peasants had assorted privately owned property from livestock to machinery to land which not only has economic and utilitarian value, but sentimental value as well. This was why the peasant farmers would be reluctant to give up their private property. It is even more evident here that Marx did not write The Communist Manifesto with a largely agrarian nation like China in mind. The peasants supported Communism because they believed they were going to gain land (from the wealthy), and not lose it. Under Mao, the peasants gradually lost the rights to their property.

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