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 Going in for Agriculture in a Big Way—How a province of 40 million people solved its grain problem

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Going in for Agriculture in a Big Way

— How a province of 40 million people solved its grain problem

by Chi Yen

Source: Peking Review, No. 23, June 6, 1975
Transcribed by www.wengewang.org


    WITH Peking at its centre, Hopei is a big province that has a population of more than 40 million people and 6.66 million hectares of farmland, and embraces over 140 counties and cities.
   Since liberation, under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the Party Central Committee, Hopei's people have achieved remarkable successes in socialist revolution and construction. Owing to its backwardness in agricultural production and helplessness in the face, of natural calamities, it used to depend on southern China for part of its grain supply. This situation was put to an end in 1970 when it became self-sufficient. In 1974, the province's total grain output was three times that of 1949, the year of China's liberation, more than enough to feed its people.

Agriculture — the Foundation of National Economy

   Integrating the Marxist theory with China's practical situation, Chairman Mao has put forward a series of scientific theses on the dialectical relationship between agriculture and industry. Based on the experience of the First Five-Year Plan (1953-57) for the development of China's national economy, Chairman Mao pointed out in 1957: "In discussing our path to industrialization, I am here concerned principally with the relationship between the growth of heavy industry, light industry and agriculture. It must be affirmed that heavy industry is the core of China's economic construction. At the same time, full attention must be paid to the development of agriculture and light industry." "As China is a large agricultural country, with over 80 per cent of her population in the rural areas, industry must develop together with agriculture, for only thus can industry secure raw materials and a market, and only thus is it possible to accumulate fairly large funds for building a powerful heavy industry." (On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People.) In 1962, Chairman Mao further specified the general policy for developing the national economy as "taking agriculture as the foundation and industry as the leading factor."
   Agriculture is the foundation of the national economy. This is a common law governing the economic development of various societies. Marx once pointed out: "An agricultural labour productivity exceeding the individual requirements of the labourer is the basis of all societies." (Capital.) That agriculture is the foundation is determined by its special rote in the national economy. Especially in a country like China with the overwhelming majority of her population in the rural areas, taking agriculture as the foundation in developing the national economy is of urgent realistic significance.
   The role of agriculture as the foundation can be generalized as follows:
(1) Agriculture is the source of the people's livelihood.
   Products provided by agriculture are the preliminary material conditions for people's living, and also the prerequisites for them to engage in various social activities.
(2) Agriculture is the main source of raw materials tor light industry and the main provider of funds, directly or indirectly, for the state's construction.
   As an important component part of the national economy, light industry supplies the people with large quantities of daily necessities. Compared with heavy industry, light industry takes less time and needs less investment to build, but it accumulates more funds more quickly for the state. More than a quarter of the total revenue of Hopei Province is from light industry.
(3) China's main market for her industrial goods is in the rural areas.
   Only after the level of agricultural production has been raised, the collective economy of the people's communes developed, the peasants' income increased and purchasing power in the rural areas raised as a whole, can industrial goods find a steadily expanding market and industrial production develop swiftly.
(4) The development of industry depends on the rural areas for a steady supply of labour power.


Industry — the Leading Factor

   Of course, stressing the importance of agriculture does not in any way mean that industry's function as the leading factor in the national economy should be neglected. Industry, especially heavy industry producing the means of production, supplies large quantities of machines, building materials, fuel, power, chemical fertilizers and farm insecticides for the development of agriculture and expedites its modernization. The fundamental way out for agriculture lies in mechanization. In the absence of the growth of heavy industry, the transformation of the backward features of agriculture cannot be fulfilled. In addition, the expansion of heavy industry can provide advanced techniques and equipment for the various departments so that the entire national economy is placed on a modernized material basis. Chairman Mao has said: "Without industry there can be no solid national defence, no well-being for the people, no prosperity or strength for the nation." (On Coalition Government.) In a word, industry is the leading factor in the entire national economy and helps it to develop in an all-round way. The relationship between industry and agriculture is a dialectical one of mutual dependence and mutual promotion. Both are indispensable and should be developed simultaneously to ensure all-round prosperity of the national economy.
   Hopei Province at one time paid more attention to heavy industry and less to agriculture. As a result, agriculture developed rather slowly which in turn impeded the tempo of expansion of heavy industry. Since 3963 the province began taking agriculture as the foundation while implementing the principle of giving priority to developing heavy industry. The result was agriculture and light and heavy industries all progressed. In the decade 1963-73, the annual average progressive increase of the total output value of industry and agriculture in Hopei was 12.2 per cent, of which the corresponding increase for agriculture was 6.4 per cent, light industry 13.6 per cent and heavy industry 18.3 per cent. This shows that taking agriculture as the foundation is of strategic significance to economic construction and is related to the economic situation as a whole. On the chessboard of the entire national economy, a correct move by agriculture is of great importance to the whole situation.

How to Develop Agriculture

   Like the rest of the country, Hopei Province since liberation has carried out a series of revolutions with regard to the system of ownership in the rural areas. Starting from the land reform which abolished feudal ownership to organizing mutual-aid teams, agricultural co-ops and then people's communes, it has led the scattered small-peasant economy on to the socialist road of collectivization, thereby creating conditions for promoting farm production and developing agriculture in a big way.
   In developing agriculture, Hopei has paid great attention to the question of orientation, to planning building water conservancy projects, setting up industries which support agriculture and to strengthening leadership by sending cadres at various levels to the forefront of agriculture.

(1) Taking the Party's basic line as the key link, criticizing the capitalist tendency and adhering to the socialist orientation in developing agriculture.

In socialist society there are still classes, class contradictions and class struggle. Not only the overthrown class enemies try to restore the old order, but new bourgeois elements may be engendered. The existence of the two kinds of socialist ownership, namely, ownership by the whole people and collective ownership by the working people, determines that a commodity system is still practised in China. Bourgeois right unavoidably exists as regards distribution and exchange. There are still differences between workers and peasants, city and countryside and mental and manual labour. Therefore, the struggle between the socialist road and the capitalist road in the rural areas is quite fierce. Lenin pointed out: "Small production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously, and on a mass scale." ("Left-Wing" Communism, An Infantile Disorder.) After the socialist revolution regarding ownership of the means of production in the rural areas had in the main been completed in China, collective ownership by the working people was established. Peasants farming on their own became peasants working in socialist collectives. However, the peasants still retain certain inherent characteristics of the small producers. Inevitably, the spontaneous capitalist tendency is found in the well-to-do peasants. If this tendency is allowed to spread unchecked, there will be some people getting rich while others will be on the verge of bankruptcy and still others preoccupied with merely making a living. The collective economy will then fall apart. Therefore, it is an important task of Party organizations at various levels in the rural areas to constantly educate the peasants in socialist ideology and to criticize capitalist tendencies.
   One of the major expressions of the spontaneous tendency towards capitalism at present in the rural areas is: Those seriously affected by this tendency allocate too much labour power for side-line occupations to make money in the name of "developing the collective economy" and "increasing commune members' income." Some even neglect farm production and go in for commerce. Furthermore, the spontaneous forces of capitalism in the rural areas often collaborate with urban capitalist forces to undermine the socialist economic base.
   The Chengkuan People's Commune in Huolu County had at one time attained a comparatively high level of agricultural production. But its output plummeted when some of its leading cadres, who were seriously influenced by the tendency to get in more money, paid more attention to side-line occupations than farm production and sent out every year a labour force of more than 1,000 to engage in trade or transport work or do odd jobs in the cities. The outcome was the commune members had no mind for collective production and the commune's per-hectare grain output dropped from third to sixteenth place in the county and cotton output fell from second place to eighteenth. Through mass criticism of capitalism, commune members came to understand the dangers of the capitalist tendency and so resolved to redouble their efforts in building socialism. Last year, every production brigade in the commune concentrated its strength on building farmland water conservancy works which benefited the crops that very year. Farm output nearly doubled as compared with the year before. They said with deep understanding: "Only by blocking the road to capitalism can we stride ahead towards socialism."
   Party organizations in Hopei's rural areas often use both positive and negative examples to propagate the superiority of socialism among the peasants and criticize the reactionary nature of capitalism. This makes the peasants know that "only socialism can save China." (Mao Tsetung: On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People.) All this helps the commune members consciously resist corrosion by capitalist ideas.
(2) Planning the national economy in the order of agriculture, light industry and heavy industry.
   In making an annual or long-term plan, the province first of all draws up a plan for agricultural production and studies how quick the development of agriculture will be and what problems in that field should be solved. Then it makes an all-round arrangement based on the needs of agricultural development. Plans for boosting the production of large state-owned and small locally-run coal mines, iron and steel plants, machinery and cement plants and chemical fertilizer factories are all geared to the needs of agriculture. In a word, the distribution of labour power, material and funds is planned with an eye to guaranteeing the needs of agricultural production.
   Take the famous high-yielding Chengting County for example. The county concentrates its efforts and money on agriculture. Instead of putting up a new building, its leading organ has its office in the old site of the Chengting prefectural government of the Ching Dynasty. By this and other means, more funds can go to agricultural production. Since 1964, the county's revenue has for ten years in a row exceeded its approved budgetary figure and has spent 84 per cent of the funds at its disposal on key projects in agricultural production. It has set up many small factories which directly serve and effectively promote farm production such as factories producing diesel engines, cement and chemical fertilizers.
(3) Water conservancy is the lifeline of agriculture. The key to developing agriculture is to solve the problem of water conservancy.
   Lenin taught us: "You must be able at each particular moment to find the particular link in the chain which you must grasp with all your might in order to hold the whole chain and to prepare firmly for the transition to the next link." (The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government.) Grasping water conservancy which is the particular link is of distinctive and great significance to Hopei Province.
   Over 70 per cent of the area of Hopei is in the basin of the Haiho River, a river which used to wreak havoc in the past. Nine years out of ten, the whole province suffered from drought in spring and waterlogging in autumn, bringing great misery to the people and impeding agricultural development for ages. In 1963 Chairman Mao i-sued the call: "The Haiho River must be brought under permanent control!" This call instantly met with warm response from the people of Hopei. Every winter and spring since then, 300.000 to 500,000 peasant-workers have been organized to build key projects to harness the Haiho, while commune members have been mobilized to lake part in minor projects in their localities. For more than ten years now, 2,900 kilometres of trunk channels have been dredged or dug, 2,800 kilometres of flood-prevention dykes built, more than 50.000 projects — including bridges, sluice-gates and culverts — constructed, and 16 big reservoirs expanded or completed. The upshot: capacity for discharging flood or excessive rain water is now more than fivefold that of ten years ago and alkaline soil has been reduced by half throughout the province.
   Surface water, however, was still inadequate to cope with the rapid agricultural development and ground water had to be used to the full. By 1974, more than 400.000 power-operated wells had been sunk. The result was that more than half of the total arable land was put under irrigation, and one-third are fields giving high and stable yields in dry or wet years.
(4)   Industry supports agriculture.
   Large numbers of diesel engines were required following the sinking of more and more power-operated wells. However, Hopei Province's machine-building industry was a weak link. The 3,000 diesel engines turned out in 1968 were far from enough. What was to bo done? Should the slate be asked to help? Since China is a vast country where large-scale construction goes on everywhere, how can the state meet the needs of even-area? Should Hopei build new factories? But funds and materials were not sufficient; moreover, it would take too much time and nobody could wait that Ion?. The best way was to mobilize the masses and produce diesel engines by making use of the available facilities. Thus over 260 units from different trades got together and started manufacturing diesel engines. They included enterprises under provincial administration down to the rural commune farm machinery stations, from machine-building and metallurgical industries to small factories run by neighbourhoods and schools. This paid off handsomely. Diesel engine output soared to over 20,000 in 1970, 50,000 the next year and 150,000 in 1973. Within a few years, several hundred thousand diesel engines were available in the countryside and they played a big part in fighting drought. Moreover, when wheels were mounted, the engines could easily be turned into tractors. Simply structured and requiring little material, these tractors could be manufactured by counties and communes by integrating modern with indigenous methods.
   While speeding up farm mechanization, Hopei devotes much attention to developing county- or commune-run industries directly serving farm production. In the last few years, total output value of county- or commune-run industries amounted to over one-fourth of tile total industrial output of the whole province. The counties and communes not only get their own raw materials by opening small iron and coal mines, but also set up small iron and steel works and cement factories. Every county now has farm machinery plants, every commune has its own workshops for repairing farm machines and most production brigades have their own farm machinery repair groups. Generally speaking, every county can produce electric motors for farm use, water pumps, crushers, threshers and machines for processing farm and side-line products. With the speedy increase of farm machinery, drainage and irrigation, farm and side-line products processing, threshing and fodder-crushing have been mechanized or semi-mechanized in quite a number of counties, greatly raising labour productivity.
(5) Scientific farming raises per-unit yield.
   To raise the per-unit yield, great attention has been paid to scientific farming such as cultivation of good seed strains, extension of inter-cropping areas and areas sown to more than one crop a year, improving farming techniques and using more organic fertilizers, Agro-technical stations have been set up in more than 90 per cent of Hopei's communes, and half the production brigades have experimental farms. Scientific farming has brought about a marked increase in grain production. Chengting County is one example where, by sinking more than 5,000 power-operated wells on its 35,300 hectares of arable land, there are on the average three wells for every 20 hectares. This county has initially built up a network of roads lined with trees, as well as a network of drainage and irrigation ditches criss-crossing the neatly laid-out fields. With the building of fields giving steady and high yields despite severe natural disasters, the county has freed itself from these menaces. Grain production kept rising every year in spite of serious drought in the last several years. Grain output last year averaged 7.5 tons per hectare, an all-time high for counties in northern China. The Huaiti Production Brigade on the outskirts of Shihchiachuang in the early post-liberation years had an average grain yield of three tons per hectare, of which half was wheat. Last year's yield per hectare was 13 tons, of which 6.7 tons was wheat.
(6) To boost agricultural production, cadres must go down to the grass-roots level.
   "Cadres are a decisive factor, once the political line is determined.” (Mao Tsetung: The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War.) To develop agriculture in a big way, cadres at all levels, especially leading cadres, go to the forefront of agriculture by rotation to grasp revolution and promote production. By taking part in productive labour together with the peasants, the cadres maintain close relations with the masses and this in turn will facilitate their own ideological revolutionization. Moreover, it stimulates the enthusiasm of cadres at the grass-roots level and commune members for production. Investigation and study on the spot also helps the leading cadres get first-hand knowledge, find out existing problems and solve them there and then.
   By going to the forefront of agricultural production, the cadres will be able to discover, summarize and popularize the experiences of advanced units, so as to promote all-round and balanced development of farm production.

Bankruptcy of Theory of "Population Explosion"

   The big changes in Hopei's industry and agriculture in the quarter-century since the founding of New China testify to the fact that , “revolutions are the locomotives of history." (Marx: The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850.)
   Imperialist prognosticators once alleged: The rapid increase in the population of China is an "unbearable pressure" on the land. But facts are most eloquent. Since liberation, China's population has increased by 80 per cent, and grain 140 per cent; the needs of a population of nearly 800 million has been ensured. Hopei's population has increased by 60 per cent in the last 25 years, while total grain output has risen by 200 per cent. The speed of the grain increase greatly exceeds the population increase.
   As historical materialists, we firmly believe: "Of all things in the world, people are the most precious.Under the leadership of the Communist Party, as long as there are people, every kind of miracle can be performed." (Mao Tsetung: The Bankruptcy of the Idealist Conception of History.) In spite of this, we advocate planned birth. Satisfactory results have been achieved in this respect by Hopei Province in the last few years. Take Nankung County for instance. Its population growth in 1973 dropped to 6.99 per thousand as against 15 per thousand previously. Planned birth is good for protecting the health of mothers and children, for bringing up the younger generations and for national prosperity, and it facilitates the planned development of the socialist economy. This has nothing in common with the theory of "population explosion" preached by the imperialists.
  
  
  

 
 
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