Revolutionary Literature in China: An Anthology

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

use pure venacular to create a new short story form. And the possibilities for handling drama in new ways are even greater. After practical work begins, our experience will teach us many new methods and the people themselves will be able to create new forms. To totally rely on traditional forms is to walk down the path of surrender.

Second, there is the matter of content. At present the primary work slogan for revolutionary popular literature and art and for the proletarian literary movement in general should be: "Tear off all masks and put the heroes of revolutionary war on display." But of special importance is the need to have a clear perception of precisely where the consciousness of the enemies of the revolution has made its impact among the people. This is a cardinal task in the revolutionary struggle on the literary and artistic front. If the enemy's strength cannot be calculated, then naturally there can be no fight. Because there was no assessment of the actual situation during the early period of revolutionary literature, only posters and slogans were yelled out. This is not attacking the enemy, nor is it assaulting reactionary consciousness, it's just yelling. To be assembled on the battlefield shouting in triumph with all eyes fixed on flags fluttering in the heavens, rather than pointing the guns of the revolutionary army in the direction of the enemy, may appear to be very "bold," but in fact it is not the same as doing battle! For this reason there are those among us who oppose ripping masks from the faces of the enemy, that is, they are not in favor of us writing about the landlord-capitalist class and the petty bourgeoisie.25 At present it must be profoundly understood that it is the task of the revolutionary literary movement to clearly perceive what means the enemy uses in each and every crisis to mislead the people, to clearly perceive what sort of reactionary consciousness is inflicted upon the daily lives of the people, and to rip off every variety of mask. Our work must reflect the actual revolutionary struggle by presenting revolutionary heroism, particularly the heroism of the people. This will require exposing reactionary consciousness and the timid wavering of the petty bourgeoisie, thereby bringing to light the influence of this consciousness upon the struggle of the people, and thus assisting in the growth and development of revolutionary class consciousness.

Revolutionary popular literature and art, therefore, can have a variety of dissimilar source material. In order to reflect quickly the revolutionary struggles and political crises of a given moment there can be "instant" and "rough" popular literature and art of the reportage variety. Perhaps works of this sort have no artistic value; perhaps they will be nothing more than new, popularized current events essays. But art will be created in the process of the agitation-propaganda struggle. Content can be drawn from traditional source material, giving rise to a "New Yue Fei" or a "New Water Margin."26 It can be "romantic adventures" or revolutionary struggles such as "The Taiping Revolution," "The Canton Commune, or "Zhu De and Mao Ze-dong Atop Jinggang Mountain." It can be translations of international revolutionary literature. It can be work which exposes capitalist-imperialist aggression on the part of the Big Powers. It can be a new form of "social gossip," because if reactionary popular literature and art can make use of things such as the trial of Yan Shui-sheng, the love affair between Huang and Lu, and the Shu Jing murder trial,27 then revolutionary popular literature and art should also describe the family life of the laboring people and the question of love, while describing the landlord-capitalist class for everyone to see. This last point is worthy of everyone's attention, because, up to the present time, revolutionary literature and art has been deficient in accomplishing the special tasks of this literary and artistic struggle.

What Lies Ahead?

The future of revolutionary popular literature and art will depend on its ability to become a strong and powerful enemy of reactionary popular literature and art and to become the true successor of "non-popular revolutionary literature and art."

The struggle to create a revolutionary popular literature and art will be long and hard. It will necessitate linking up with the broad masses, tapping vast public potentialities, and establishing a cadre for the literary and artistic movement of the laboring people (it is important that it be led by workers). At first the cadres should be concerned with oral literature, but in time they certainly will become involved in written literature. All these things will require a long and difficult period of organized and systematic work.

The situation at present is this: popular literature and art and non-popular literature and art exist side by side. This is because the remnants of the feudal system--particularly in the area of cultural relations--still retain a dominant position: the gentry class and the people have no common language. Whoever ignores this fact will be unable to adopt an appropriate line of struggle, and consequently will either abandon the tasks of the new cultural revolution or be deluded into thinking that it will be possible to thoroughly rely upon the Europeanized intellectual youth to engage in a liberal program of "instructing" the people in the matter of cultural revolution.

At present we must popularize non-popular revolutionary literature and art while simultaneously carrying forward the struggle against the influence of all reactionary Europeanized literature and art among the masses of petty bourgeois intellectual youth. We must also see to it that a revolutionary popular literature and art arises from the people, and working with people insure that the level of art is raised, and that the difference between popular literature and art and non-popular literature and art is erased. To accomplish this it will be necessary to get rid of non-popular literature and art which uses the new classical language while building a "modern Chinese literature" of high artistic quality, but one which the people are able to use.

Rewritten on March 5, 193228

For a more detailed discussion of Qu's intellectual development see the following: Paul G. Pickowicz, "Ch'ü Ch'iu-pai and the Origins of Marxist Literary Criticism in China," Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1973, or Paul G. Pickowicz , "Ch'ü Ch'iu-pai: Die Verbindung von Politik und Kunst in der chinesischen Revolution," in Peter J. Opitz (ed.), Die Sohne desDrachen


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