Revolutionary Literature in China: An Anthology

By John David Berninghausen; Ted Huters | Go to book overview

From a Literary Revolution to a Revolutionary Literature
By Cheng Fang-wutranslated by Michael Gotz
I. The Social Basis of the Literary Revolution
Every social phenomenon must have a social basis from which it arises. So, wherein lies the social basis of our Literary Revolution of the past ten years? According to my investigation, it should be as follows:
A. The 1911 Revolution, the failure of the democratic revolution against feudal power, along with the rapidly advancing oppression of imperialism, caused a portion of the so-called intellectual class that had already been in touch with world currents to engage wholeheartedly in the thought enlightenment movement (the so-called New Culture Movement).
B. This kind of campaign for enlightened, democratic thinking necessarily demanded a new medium of expression (the Vernacular Literature Movement).

However, the leisure class intelligentsia of the time lacked both a thorough knowledge of the age, as well as a thorough understanding of its thought. Moreover, the majority were literal, people, so their achievements were limited to superficial enlightenment, and their greatest efforts were primarily in the area of the new literature. Consequently, the New Culture Movement more or less became identical with the New Literature Movement, and it was overshadowed by the literary movement almost to the point of disappearing without a trace. In fact, in terms of visible achievement, only a few slight and indistinct rays of light of the literature remain.


II. The Historical Significance of the Literary Revolution

Historical development invariably proceeds by the dialectical method (dialektischeMethode). As a result of a change in the economic base, the mode of human life and all ideology change accordingly. Consequently, the old way of life and old ideology are sublated (auf[geho]ben) as new ones emerge.

The invasion of the torrent of modern capitalism has long since destroyed the foundations of our old economic system. During the European War [ World War I] there sprang up in China a modernized capitalist class as well as a group of petty-bourgeois intelligentsia. The revolution in the form of ideology that is literature gradually became inevitable, and the key to the solution of it all lay in the antithetical relationship between the literary and the spoken language.

The literature of the ancient period and the spoken language of the time did not have separate and distinct

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