(1904 - 2005)
Description : Ba Jin, one of the main figures of twentieth century Chinese literature, died in Shanghai on the 17th of October 2005. He was also a survivor of the Chinese anarchist movement which disappeared with the victory of the Communists. While he was required to 'repent', and purged and humiliated during the Cultural Revolution, he never embraced any other ideal. (From : Kate Sharpley Library)
Tags : anarchist, anti-communist party, bakuninist, chinese, writer, kropotkinist.
"The blight upon the people's freedom is the State. Ever since the State came into existence, we have stopped being free. No matter what we do or say, the State sticks its nose in. All we ask is to live in love with our brethren from other nations, but the State would have us patriots at any price, enrolls us in its armies and forces us to murder our neighbors." (From : "How Are We To Establish A Truly Free And Egalitarian Society?" by Ba Jin, 1921.)
"What horror! So much for the benefits that the State has brought us. Arrogating to themselves the resources that are the common wealth of our planet, the capitalists grind us into a poverty that denies us the right to live. Not that the State punishes them for it: worse still, it protects them through a battery of laws." (From : "How Are We To Establish A Truly Free And Egalitarian Society?" by Ba Jin, 1921.)
"Here comes my answer: Anarchy. That is the real freedom. And communism is the real equality. Only a social revolution can allow us to build a really free and really egalitarian society." (From : "How Are We To Establish A Truly Free And Egalitarian Society?" by Ba Jin, 1921.)
"Without the State and its laws, we would have real freedom: without the capitalist class, we would have real equality." (From : "How Are We To Establish A Truly Free And Egalitarian Society?" by Ba Jin, 1921.)
"Friends of the world of labor, can you see just how free a society rid of all authoritarian power would be? Can you see how egalitarian it would be? Are you willing to build such a society of freedom and equality? Well then, make the social revolution and have done with these rascally politics." (From : "How Are We To Establish A Truly Free And Egalitarian Society?" by Ba Jin, 1921.)
"... nobody can depict the 'cowshed' prison as a paradise, nor depict inhuman massacre as a 'Great Proletarian Revolution.'" (From : "A Museum of the 'Cultural Revolution,'" by Ba Jin, June 15, 1986.)
"...only those who do not forget the past will be masters of the future." (From : "A Museum of the 'Cultural Revolution,'" by Ba Jin, June 15, 1986.)
"China is paralyzed; where can we find happiness? Some conscious youth believe that the only way to improve China's current situation is to promote 'nationalism,' and identify 'nationalism' as the only road to happiness for the Chinese. Voices of 'nationalism' have spread all over the nation. I shudder at such a thought. 'Nationalism' is in fact the obstacle to human progress. Being a member of this society, I cannot accept nationalism against my conscience." (From : "Nationalism and the Road to Happiness for the Chinese," by Ba Jin, Originally published in Awakening the People, No. 1, September 1921.)
"...the state relies on the system of private property to survive. So once we abandon private property we will easily overthrow the state." (From : "Nationalism and the Road to Happiness for the Chinese," by Ba Jin, Originally published in Awakening the People, No. 1, September 1921.)
"Bakunin is right to say that if there is a real God, we should destroy him. Let us try!" (From : "Nationalism and the Road to Happiness for the Chinese," by Ba Jin, Originally published in Awakening the People, No. 1, September 1921.)
Ba Jin1, one of the main figures of twentieth century Chinese literature, died in Shanghai on the 17th of October 2005. He was also a survivor of the Chinese anarchist movement which disappeared with the victory of the Communists. While he was required to 'repent', and purged and humiliated during the Cultural Revolution, he never embraced any other ideal.
Ba Jin was born in 1904 in Chengdu, Sichuan province, into a wealthy family. Economically comfortable but personally stifling, he described his patriarchal family home as a despotic kingdom. His first escape came in 1919 when, under the influence of Kropotkin's Appeal to the Young and the writings of Emma Goldman, he joined the local anarchist group, the Equality Society. 'He became the group's most active member, taking part in the students' demonstrations against the local war lords, distributing revolutionary leaflets, and organizing a reading room on the premises of the local anarchist journal, to which he began to contribute articles.'2 He was also inspired by the stories of nineteenth-century Russian radicals who went 'to the people' as recounted by writers like Turgenev, whose works he would later translate.
His second escape came in 1923 when he was finally able to leave Chengdu to study, moving to Nanking and then Shanghai. There he continued his anarchist activism and writing, producing a pamphlet on the Chicago Haymarket Affair of 1886-7.3 From 1927 to 1928 Ba Jin lived in France, meeting many anarchists including Alexander Berkman, whose Now and After: an ABC of Communist Anarchism (AKA What is Anarchism?) he later translated and adapted as From Capitalism to Anarchism. In France he also wrote to Bartolomeo Vanzetti awaiting execution in Massachusetts. He was deeply affected by the case and later wrote a pamphlet, On the Scaffold, about it.
In France Ba Jin completed Destruction, the first of his novels based on the struggles of young Chinese revolutionaries. In 1931 he wrote Family, recognized as his greatest work, and from this point he was established as a writer. In 1931 came the first Japanese invasion of China which preceded the full-scale war of 1937-45. Ba Jin wrote extensively for the anti-Japanese resistance, though without abandoning anarchism.
After the Communist victory in 1949, Ba Jin was forced to rewrite his works. 'In the first editions the protagonists acted with anarchist ideas and in a clearly anarchist ambiance, and they often quoted the well-known texts of anarchism… In the "revised" edition… Emma Goldman is not only no longer his spiritual mother; she doesn't exist.'4 From this point on, he abandoned fiction, and only wrote a small amount of reportage. In 1958 he renounced Anarchism and in 1961 stated 'I am not satisfied either by the quantity or quality of my works.'
However, whenever the regime allowed it, Ba Jin was prepared to speak out. 'In 1962, when the party seemed to tolerate and even promote a more creative and spontaneous style in literature, [Ba Jin] came out with a speech under the title "Courage and Sense of Responsibility of Writers." It was a strong protest against the literary bureaucrats and an admonition to writers to be fighters, to uphold the truth and their own vision of reality.'5
Payback came during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Mao unleashed the Red Guards on his 'bureaucrat' enemies. They also persecuted writers, including Ba Jin - making a great deal of his anarchist past. 'To the people', instead of being an optimistic plan to spark social change as it had been for the nineteenth-century Russian narodniks became a punishment for independent thinking or 'disloyalty.'
'Finally, on June 20, 1968, [Ba Jin] was dragged to the People's Stadium of Shanghai. Those present and those who watched the scene on television saw him kneeling on broken glass and heard the shouts accusing him of being a traitor and enemy of Mao. They also heard him break his silence at the end and shout at the top of his voice, 'You have your thoughts and I have mine. This is the fact and you can't change it even if you kill me.'"6
Worse came in 1972 when his wife Xian Shan died of cancer, after being denied adequate medical care. During these years Ba Jin gave himself strength by reading Dante's Inferno. In 1977 Ba Jin was rehabilitated and returned to his position as a respected writer of an earlier generation. Soon after his return, he produced a series of essays entitled Random Thoughts dealing largely with the Cultural Revolution.
Unlike the rest of his anarchist comrades we're able to sketch out the life of Ba Jin: in many ways he was protected by his fame as a writer. Facing a totalitarian regime, he could have surrendered and endorsed every new slogan demanded by the powers that be, but didn't. Beyond that it is difficult to discuss the exact political attitudes he held, since censorship and self-censorship take us into a foggy world of codes and meaningful silences.
But his words show that the spirit of freedom endured:
'When Ba Jin was a guest speaker at a lecture series in Kyoto in 1980, he declared: "I do not write to earn a living or to build a reputation. I write to battle enemies.
"Who are they? Every outdated traditional notion, every irrational system that stands in the way of social progress and human development, and every instance of cruelty in the face of love. These are my great enemies.
"My pen is alight and my body aflame. Until both burn down to ash, my love and my hate will remain here in the world."'7
1, a note on names: Born Li Yaotang and later named Li Feigan (Li Pei Kan) by his family, Ba Jin (previously transliterated as Pa Chin or Pa Kin) took this pen name (which he used only for his fiction) from the first syllable of Bakunin and the last of Kropotkin to show his anarchist politics.
2, from the introduction by Olga Lang to Family, Anchor Books edition: 1972 posted at http://plawiuk.blogspot.com/
3, The Chicago Tragedy (published 1926). See 'Ba Jin's Blood of Freedom' by Diane Scherer in Haymarket Scrapbook, edited by Dave Roediger and Franklin Rosemont (Charles H. Kerr, 1986).
4, Giuseppe Galzerano, 'The Anarchist writer Pa Kin', Le Monde Libertaire, Nº 470, January 13, 1983. Trans. Paul Sharkey.
5, Olga Lang, introduction to Family.
6, Olga Lang, introduction to Family.
7, 'Warrior of the Pen - Ba Jin' by Daisaku Ikeda (President, Soka Gakkai International). Posted at http://plawiuk.blogspot.com/
From : Kate Sharpley Library, http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/4xgxxt.
Author of A Battle For Life (July 09, 1958)
Author of How Are We To Establish A Truly Free And Egalitarian Society? (April 01, 1921)
Author of Letter from Ba Jin to the CRIA (March 18, 1949)
Author of A Museum of the "Cultural Revolution" (June 15, 1986)
Author of Nationalism and the Road to Happiness for the Chinese (August 31, 1921)
November 25, 1904 : Ba Jin's Birth Day.
October 17, 2005 : Ba Jin's Death Day.
November 15, 2016 : Ba Jin's Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.
April 21, 2019 : Ba Jin's Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.
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