孙立平:极权主义是一种人类历史上从未有过的新的统治形态

编按:原文发于2013年,已被新浪微博删除。本文转载于2021年1月20日。

高伐林:昨天发了一篇孙立平的文章,今天还是孙立平——介绍他的另一篇文章,谈极权主义的。这文章分三部分在他的微博贴出,有人在网上将之合并成一篇完成文章来转发,我做了进一步整合。其中有些部分显然有所重复,但是不妨碍阅读,也符合“重要的事情多说几遍”的俗话。

极权主义杂谈之一:

一种人类历史上从未有过的新的统治形态

极权主义无疑是20世纪留给人们的一个最大的谜。尽管此前有种种极权主义的思想和种子,但只有到了20世纪,它才真正开花结果。它是一场富有感召力的运动,又是一种令人恐怖的制度;它肇端于诱人的理想和不容质疑的正义,却酿造了无尽的罪恶;它在最大的程度上践踏着人性,其中却又夹杂着动人的故事;它是无数人的希望,又是无数人的厄运。可以说,没有极权主义,人类整个20世纪的历史将会全然不同。就在今天,它仍然在散发着巨大的诱惑力。
这是一个怎样的谜?
阿伦特在她那本著名的《极权主义的起源》中指出,极权主义是一种人类历史上从未有过的新的统治形态。因此,有人认为,可以说极权主义是现代性的一部分。著名社会学家齐格蒙·鲍曼认为,大屠杀不只是犹太人历史上的一个悲惨事件,也并非德意志民族的一次反常行为,而是现代性本身的固有可能。正是现代性的本质要素,使得像大屠杀这样灭绝人性的惨剧成为设计者、执行者和受害者密切合作的社会集体行动。从极端的理性走向极端的非理性,从高度的文明走向高度的野蛮,看似悖谬,实则有着逻辑的必然。
说极权主义是一种人类历史上从未有过的新的统治形态,是因为它具有此前任何统治都不具备的那些基本要素。
首先,极权主义是基于一种意识形态乌托邦基础上的对社会的系统改造,推进这场改造的是激昂的社会运动,结果是一套在逻辑上似乎是尽善尽美的体制。无论是其强调的意志的力量,还是精神的原子弹,深层的也许是理性的自信。
其次,极权主义打破了传统的“统治”或“治理”边界,传统专制主义的统治与治理是有限的,也就是说,再暴虐的统治也仍然在其它的非政治领域留有自由,而极权主义的统治是总体性的,弥漫于全部的社会生活。它垄断的不仅是权力,也不仅是财富,它还垄断着社会的“场所”和“空间”,换言之,它是对全部社会生活的重新组装。
再次,极权主义模糊了“统治”与“被统治”的界限,使“被统治者”成为“统治”不可缺少的要素。鲍曼注意到,纳粹大屠杀中一个不容忽视的因素,是受害人的合作。专制主义仅仅要求被统治者的“服从”,而极权主义要求的是“被统治者”发自内心的“合作”。为此,它要求对人的改造或“新人”的塑造。换言之,传统专制主义是一部由车头牵引的列车,而极权主义则是在每节车厢上都安装了发动机。

极权主义杂谈之二:

极权主义的能量来源于对社会情绪的乌托邦式系统整理

极权主义最令人惊异之处,是它的巨大诱惑力和能量。正因为如此,许多讨论极权主义的文献都使用了“极权主义的诱惑”这样的字眼,而在现实中,人们更能感受到极权主义的巨大能量。而这种诱惑和能量,最突出地体现在它能使被统治者成为营造统治关系的积极参与者,甚至使极权体制中受害最深的人成为它最忠实的拥护者和捍卫者。这样的诱惑或能量来自哪里?
对任何一个民族来说,最大的诱惑都一定是在苦难和无望中升起的灯塔。德国纳粹上台就是典型的例子。希特勒刚上台时,德国经济几乎陷于停顿状态,失业人数高达600万甚至更多,通货膨胀达到四十多亿马克兑换一个美元。构成这种灾难性现实的背景有两个。一是一战后作为战败国受到的严厉惩罚,二是席卷西方的30年代大萧条。无疑,一个能够结束这
灾难的力量,就是人们的救星。
但这样说,并不能解释极权主义为什么是一个现代现象。因为我们知道,灾难,甚至更一般意义上的苦难,都是贯穿于整个人类的历史的。那么,为什么那时候没有形成如此强有力的极权主义?这里需要注意的一个重要因素就是,沟通了天国与地气的现代乌托邦对社会情绪的系统整理。从极权主义形成的历史来看,通过意识形态对困惑、孤独、怨恨、欲望、失落、恐惧、无力感等社会情绪进行系统整理,并以跳过人性的办法形成乌托邦式的解决方案,是极权主义的诱惑和能量形成的重要因素。当然,另一个原因是现代的组织技术、信息技术等为极权主义提供了客观的条件,这个问题将另文探讨。
极权主义最容易发生在苦难深重的地方。因此,对于苦难的整理总会给社会运动以巨大的动力。希特勒在一场著名的演讲中说,“那场战争结束之后,我们这个民族的骄傲就没有了!那些战胜者们骑在我们的脖子上作威作福,他们随意践踏我们的尊严,一个欧洲大陆上最高贵的民族的尊严!你们告诉我,你们是选择像本杰明·马丁一样去做一个自由的斗士,还是一个奴隶?!”无论在个人的还是在社会的层面上,唤醒苦难的记忆,激发摆脱苦难的激情,都是最有鼓动力的。我们还记得,在文化大革命中,忆苦思甜,也成为社会动员的重要工具。这里最关键的问题是,如何将散射的自然状态的苦难转变成可以将社会动员起来的系统的苦难,这里需要的就是意识形态的框架。比如,如何将婆婆对媳妇的虐待引申到社会的框架之中。
苦难的诉说有两个指向,一是奔向消除苦难的理想主义目标,二是制造出有利于内部整合的敌人。而制造敌人依赖的就是从苦难向怨恨的很容易完成的转化。许多西方哲学家都从学理的角度对怨恨进行过探讨,甚至认为怨恨是现代性的重要因素。尼采断言,怨恨牵制着整个欧洲的现代性的颓废与虚无。舍勒则认为怨恨与现代性同构。然而,怨恨只有到了极权主义这里才发挥了其最大的潜力。因为极权主义的一个重要的特点就是需要不断地制造敌人。制造敌人的意义,一是可以在社会中制造紧张状态,为那些似乎是不符合常规的统治措施提供依据;二可以在内部制造紧张感,从而强化内部的整合。
其实极权主义进行整理的社会情绪远远不止这些。转型期人们会特有的孤独、困惑、失落、恐惧、无力感等更是富有潜力的社会情绪。达伦多夫的研究表明,极权主义诱惑的对象,往往是那些停留在新旧之间的半道上的人,那些人既丢失了旧东西,而又找不到新东西。他们在事物的一种较为陈旧的结构中失去了自己的位置,却未能在新的秩序中找到另一个位置;在这个意义上,他们是一些毫无地位的和失去根基的阶层。早期纳粹党的很多领袖出身于在社会方面(而且有时也在民族方面)无家可归的家庭。达伦多夫指出,正是由于这个原因,人们很容易掉进要把这两种世界的最好部分结合在一起的虚假承诺的圈套中。如果考察一下极权主义的许诺,就可以看出,其具体内容往往都是针对这些情绪的。

极权主义杂谈之三:

极权主义诱惑的是我们每一个人

极权主义与专制主义的一个重要区别,是其拥有广泛而深厚的社会基础。这无疑是其力量的源泉。梁文道曾经提出一个问题:纳粹人怎么可能那么成功?他认为唯一的答案就是,其实当时那个第三帝国里面的人,尤其是少数德国人是真心拥戴他们的元首,真心相信纳粹的。
而最令人感叹的是,极权主义造就了这样的一种历史奇观:它的最狂热的拥护者,最后也成了它的最深重的受害者;甚至在其成了受害者之后仍然是它的狂热的拥护者。
那么谁是极权主义的社会基础?
极权主义的基础是什么?人们最熟悉的当然是阿伦特的观点。阿伦特认为,极权主义的基础就是无结构的群众。极权主义不仅得到群众空前的支持,而且这种支持有时甚至具有无私、超功利的特点,他们不但愿意牺牲自己,而且愿意牺牲家人和朋友。当然,从极权主义垮台是过程看,群众对其的抛弃也是迅速的。按照阿伦特的分析逻辑,以利益为号召的动员只能是理性的而有结构的群体,而极权主义动员的则是缺乏自我利益意识的群众。
阿伦特认为,“群众”是这样的一些人,他们发现被自己的同胞抛弃,被社会孤立,跟其生活世界疏离,丧失了一个共同的世界,漂泊无根,甚至成为现实社会中多余的人。正因为如此,他们希望跟某种永恒的、操纵万事万物的巨大势力结合成一体,因为惟有攀住这股力量,他们才能感觉安全妥当。他们甘心为任何赋予他们在世界上以地位和“存在理由”的运动或意识形态服务,以便获得起码的“尊严”。在投身极权主义运动的时候,群众感到自己成了“主人”,自己的价值得到了承认。所以阿伦特说,群众所迫切需要的事,乃是意识形态提供给他们的最具抽象形式的胜利与成就之结局。
但社会学家达伦多夫不同意这样的分析。他认为,早期美国有着原子化的特征,但美国既不是法西斯主义的,也不是共产主义的,而且任何时候都未因为受到诱惑想成为这两种主义的国家。而革命前的俄国显然也不是原子化的。达伦多夫认为,极权主义不会诱惑这类群众,而是诱惑那些停留在新旧之间的半道上的人,那些人既丢失了旧东西,而又找不到新东西,而且也许基于这个原因,掉进了要把这两种世界的最好部分结合在一起的虚假承诺的圈套中。极权主义的混合成分是不完善的现代精神、知识分子的背叛和一个领袖的蛊惑人心的花言巧语。
达伦多夫继续分析道,成为极权主义基础的是这样的一些人:他们在一种较为陈旧的结构中失去了自己的位置,却未能在新的秩序中找到另一个位置;在这个意义上,他们是一些毫无地位的和失去根基的阶层。之所以有诱惑,是因为人们在不确定的经济前景中,希望摆脱一种不完善的资产阶级社会的弊端。早期纳粹党的很多领袖就出身于无家可归的家庭。他们的追随者来自某些特定的下层群体,它们“从未为社会所整合”,后来也来自一些小的独立职业者和小商人,这些人都为有组织的资本也同样为有组织的工人深感不安。同时,也包括这样的一些职员,他们在他们的要求和他们的地位之间被拉来拉去,摇摆不定。
而哈耶克和波普尔等人的分析,则揭示了极权主义更深层的基础。哈耶克指出,毫无疑问,不但在德国和其它地方为极权主义作准备的那些思想,而且极权主义本身的许多原则都已成为在很多其它国家里产生日益增长的吸引力的那种东西。日益崇拜国家,倾慕权力,好大喜功,热衷于使任何事情都“组织化”(我们现在把它叫作“计划”)和“不能让任何事情听命于有机发展的简单力量”这样的思维和逻辑,在很多社会中盛行。这是产生极权主义的深厚基础。对此,哈耶克甚至用了“我们中间的极权主义者”这样提法,用意在于提醒人们,极权主义就在我们的心中,就在一个正常社会里无数人的思维中。
有一位网友这样写道:有一次,我看到身边农村穷苦的人们,生了很多孩子,我心里就骂:你们养不活这些孩子,不能给这些孩子好的生活,为什么还要生他们?你们不应该生!那时候我在读大学,是个理想主义者。过后我就反思:我为什么会有这样的想法?如果我有权力,是不是就要阻止他们生孩子?我凭什么剥夺穷人生孩子的权利、剥夺穷人的天伦之乐?这个事件对我影响重大。我就是波尔布特。每个人都有可能成为波尔布特。当我看到BBC关于红色高棉的纪录片,一对中国北京情侣不远万里,历尽艰辛,投奔柬埔寨,脸上洋溢着理想与希望的光辉时,再看到那些累累白骨,从心底里我就开始试图原谅他了。其实,与其说作者在原谅极权主义的追随者,不如说是在检讨自己身上的极权主义因素。
更令人惊异的是极权主义受害者对极权主义死心塌地的拥护,以至于人们不得不将“斯德哥尔摩综合症”这个概念移用到他们身上。
1973年在瑞典斯德哥尔摩发生了一起银行抢劫案,一名劫匪在持枪抢劫银行时中了警方的埋伏,随即劫持了一男三女,将他们扣压在保管库内。匪徒提出的条件是,释放在押的同伙,保证他们安全出境,否则将人质一个个处死。经过六天的包围,警方设法钻通了保管库,用催泪瓦斯将人质和劫匪驱赶出来,狙击手同时作好了危急情况下击毙劫匪的准备。然而,接下来发生的情况大出人们的意料,离开保管库后,三名人质反而将劫持者围了起来,保护他不受警方的伤害,并拒绝提供不利于他的证词。一个女人还说她爱上了劫持者,等他获释后就嫁给他。这时候全世界都傻了,说这到底是怎么回事?这时候这个病名就产生了,叫作斯德哥尔摩综合症。
斯德哥尔摩综合症是很难进行充分解释的现象。其中依赖与认同是最基本的因素。具体说,第一,对象是能掌握你生死命运的。第二,他身上有让你能产生认同或吸引你的东西。第三,他对你有某种意义上的恩惠,特别是在可以处死你的时候没有处死你。第四,他能够控制你得到的信息。第五,现实的情境或他构建出的情境能让你觉得你们是在同生死共安危。有人将其总结为下列的心理过程:被害的弱势者在长期受到侵害他们的强势者支配之下,最后终于放弃了反抗,转而认同强势者以期获得安全感的一种心理转变。受害者尽最大的努力不去激怒或挑衅加害者;而受害者这样做的时候,也渐渐失去自我意识,直到完全接受加害者的观点。假如受害者现在用加害者的眼光来看世界,他们就不再渴望自由,结果是当救援到来时,受害人可能会抗拒营救。

TRANSLATION: THE HUNDRED CHILDLESS DAYS

Thirty years ago, Guan County, Shandong Province launched the “Hundred Childless Days” campaign under the aegis of national family planning, known in the West as the “one-child policy.” The birthplace of the “Boxers” was deemed to have too high a birth rate by the provincial government. County officials sought to correct this by ensuring that not a single baby was born between May 1 and August 10, 1991. As local accounts attest, authorities in the area went to extraordinarily inhumane lengths to be the “best” at reproducing the least.

In what some locals called “the slaughter of the lambs,” women across Guan County were rounded up for forced abortions or induction of labor; one local official claims that these “procedures” were sometimes no more than a kick in the stomach from an out-of-town mercenary. Children who did make it into the world were reportedly strangled, and their bodies tossed into open pits. The families of pregnant women were publicly shamed in reprises of the Cultural Revolution.

Under the one-child policy, local officials in China were responsible for implementing broad guidelines from the central government about family planning quotas, leaving little oversight of how localities reached their target birth rates. In some extreme cases, such as in Guan County, this led to gruesome abuses. While the “one-child policy” was loosened to a two-child policy in 2015, its lingering effects will only be felt more acutely in the coming years. As China’s population ages and may be shrinking, the economic and social repercussions wrought by a generation of curtailed births are only just beginning to sting.

These testimonies were posted by @无逸说 (Wuyishuo) to their WeChat public account on March 15, but have since been censored for “violating regulations.” The provenance of these accounts is unclear, but their details are consistent with information found elsewhere. The Phoenix TV documentary mentioned in the piece below is no longer available online but the transcript is archived. The accounts seem to date back about 20 years, but they were completely new to Wuyishuo, as the post author explained in a brief preface. The post is translated in full below:

“THE HUNDRED CHILDLESS DAYS,” GUAN COUNTY, SHANDONG, 1991

Screengrab of Phoenix TV documentary

Screengrab of Phoenix TV documentary

My first response to this documentary was that it was all a rumor. But when I started to look for refutations, lo and behold, I found none.

Perhaps, I thought, this was due to relevant departments’ habit of “refutation through deletion.” However, when I came across several audio recordings, a Phoenix TV interview with a family planning official who did not deny it, and Guan County online forum where no one refuted it (and indeed several provided first-hand evidence), I knew I had to set the record straight in the hope of providing future generations a more rigorous understanding of what really happened.

WITNESS I, PART 1

Banners filled the streets with recycled slogans: “Better to stop the family line and put the Party at ease,” “A rope to hang yourself, a bottle to drug yourself,” “Better to miscarry than to give birth,” “Be resolute in carrying out policy, absolutely no more children.”

Tents lined the thoroughfares of the county seat, and inside every tent were pregnant women about to go into labor. At the time people with a rural hukou were prohibited from having children, regardless of their individual circumstances. If word of the policy reached you late and your child was already born, it still didn’t matter. Hardly any children survived. To the west of the county hospital was a garbage dump with two wells several meters deep, practically overflowing because so many bodies were thrown in every day.

It all started on April 26 of that year during a meeting of the county Party committee. It was only my third day as secretary of my village Party committee. Just as I was about to get off work, Young Zhao, the courier, said to me: “Secretary Zhang, tomorrow morning the county Party committee will convene an all-hands meeting in the guesthouse. All village and town deputy Party secretaries and above have to go.” This was the first time since joining the government I had heard of such a thing, a meeting of every official who held real power. Maybe the new Party head was trying to shake things up a bit? But my first day on the job, the former county Party secretary had been demoted because he hadn’t done enough for the family planning program. It couldn’t be because of this!

At the guesthouse, an official explained how the county’s family planning program was going. In short, our county was in last place out of the entire province and had been put under special management. The county committee had been officially warned that if the situation did not improve, the lot would be forced to resign. The county secretary shouted himself hoarse, he was so furious: “I’ve already given the municipal committee its marching orders. If we do not go from last to first within a year, I’m willing to face the Party discipline committee without complaint. We can’t turn our county around if we keep doing the same old thing. If we are to succeed, we’ll have to make painful decisions. We must take extraordinary measures, put forth extraordinary effort, do extraordinary things, and render extraordinary service. That is to say, I don’t care what you do in your village or town, the birth rate must drop. Today is the swearing-in ceremony for this new effort. I’ll give you five minutes to think about it. You’ll have to give it your all to succeed. If you don’t think you’re up to the task, I call on you to immediately step aside and give way to those comrades who are willing to go the extra mile.”

The secretary finished speaking and the entire hall fell deathly silent. Then a chatter arose. From the podium, you couldn’t tell who was saying what.

After five minutes were up, the 22 local Party secretaries declared where they each stood. The county secretary called roll from front to back. I don’t know if it was because they weren’t prepared or what, but there were two deputy county secretaries who said they wouldn’t be able to complete the task in the time allotted. The reasons they gave were the ideological deficiencies of the masses, the sloppy work ethic of local cadres, poor-quality propaganda, concerns about unresolvable consequences, and so on. The county Party secretary replied with a snicker: “Look at you two genuine cadres, speaking so honestly! Good for you!” He then turned and yelled, “Guards!” Four guards came forth, one to each side of the unfortunate deputy secretaries. “Cuff them and lock them up!” The entire hall was mortified! The two didn’t even know what hit them as they were brought to the holding cells.

“People like them think that just because they’re the big boss back at home they can trade barbs with the county committee! We’re going to detain them for half a month, then let the Party discipline committee and the prosecutor see if they haven’t broken any rules!”

After a lull, the Party secretary continued in a more relaxed tone. “Some say I’m arbitrary, that I do as I please, that I like to play the despot. But if I don’t, how will our work ever get done? I was born to a military family, and I know by heart that “it takes a thousand days to raise an army and only an instant to use it.” Why has the nation invested so much in us cadres? It is because we are here to solve her problems and take on her burdens. What is family planning? It is national policy. What are national policies? They are the most fundamental policies of our country. Our county has utterly failed in carrying out this policy. Otherwise, why would we be sitting here now? If you hide from problems and shirk your duty, what use are you as a Party member and official?”

I thought that this campaign wouldn’t be too difficult, since we had the backing of the county Party committee. But I was in for a surprise. I was the first to start getting my fellow cadres in line, since nothing could get done without them. But when I imitated the county secretary in a meeting by asking who was up for the job, about half of my cadres immediately asked to be transfered! Despite making arrangements with the police, when I called on them to detain two troublemakers among my ranks, they laughed and nervously dragged their feet. I was so angry that I abruptly adjourned the meeting, admonishing everyone to go home and think about whether they could get with the program.

Later, I called the police chief into my office to ask why they hadn’t detained the two troublemakers. But before I could open my mouth, he scurried over and hurriedly explained: “Our work here in the village is different from the county. We’re all locals here, so you can’t really expect us to stir the pot. In fact, arbitrarily detaining this or that person is illegal, so it would be hypocritical for us to break the law we’re sworn to uphold! What you should do is detain only key people. With them out of the way, your work will be a whole lot easier.” This guy was telling me how to do my job, and it was obvious he was trying to intimidate me, the new Party secretary. If I couldn’t even get the police to cooperate, it would only be an uphill battle ahead.

Our county secretary, now there was someone who could sympathize with his subordinates! He knew I was a novice and that I would be vexed by the magnitude of my task. Before I could even report back to him about the mobilization meeting, he already knew the situation in my village like it was his own! The next day, he personally came to reassign the entire panel of local leaders, demoting that arrogant police chief to officer and moving him to another village. Serves him right! Did he really think he could embarrass me and get away with it?

And so with utmost ferver the village set out to address illegal births. Ultimate responsibility rested with me, as it did with the secretary of every village and town. In our village we lead by example: We started with ourselves, our own households, the people around us, our own families. Without exception, anyone who was pregnant had to have an abortion, and all pregnancy permits were annulled.

WITNESS I, PART 2

If the Chinese Revolution has taught us anything, it’s that political power—stable political power— grows out of the barrel of a gun. For every grassroot cadre, this principle holds the same, even in times of peace. You have to have a “gun” of your own, and you have to hold it steady in your own hand. The military belongs to the Party, so we couldn’t use it even if we wanted to. But a local Party secretary should have the people’s militias and the local police. To get something done and to get it done right, you have to have the people’s militias and police obey you. If you don’t have force backing you up, you don’t deserve to be Party secretary. You’ll get nothing done.

In accordance with County Secretary Zeng’s order, cadres serving in the police force, family planning office, and village committees were screened to root out anyone who might affect the success of the campaign. The overarching goal for our village remained the same: to not hold the county back by ensuring that no child was born for the hundred days between May 1 and August 10.

In a meeting with the village cadres, I parroted my prepared notes: “To complete the family planning work assigned to us by the county committee, we must ensure that, within the hundred days between May 1 and August 10, not one child is born in our village ….” I had just finished speaking when the entire audience erupted, with a few shocked individuals standing up to blurt out: “So if a child is born, what are we supposed to do?” Never before had I seen such uncouth cadres as these. What could we do? What the hell could I even do? These are county orders, and they dare ask me what can be done. Fortunately, my assistant was able to reply faster than I was: “If a child is born then strangle it to death!” And with those few words the entire hall went silent.

My secretary and I had both been political cadres in the military, so we went over everything thoroughly before presenting it at village meetings. But let’s talk about how I got things done. I ingeniously used Deng’s famous “White Cat, Black Cat” theory to indicate that what makes a good comrade is one who ensures the success of our family planning campaign. Only they would be promoted to positions of power, where they could make full use of their talents. Regardless of background or experience, regardless of whatever unscrupulous things you got up to, if you had talent, you’d get the position. However, I realized this approach simply wouldn’t work for the campaign, because everyone was from the same village—if someone wasn’t a family member, they were at least a relative. They’d be looking out for each other, and then there’d be nothing I could do.

Our great County Secretary Zeng, now there was someone who knew how to get things done. He foresaw the hurdles we would encounter. When faced with a task of major importance, such as demolishing homes or arresting people, he’d seldom use armed force, instead bringing in outsiders from other counties. Outsiders don’t know anybody local and don’t get caught up in nepotism, and so in our case they did their work with brutal efficiency. They had no qualms about kicking you right in the stomach—they were saving you the trouble of that abortion you were so reluctant to get. One fell swoop and the floor would be covered in blood. Ha ha! And that’s how we got things done. There were slim chances to save the baby—and even if we wanted to, if you arrived at the county hospital, they would induce you. Who would dare do a personal favor during such a delicate political campaign as this?

As for my hardworking family planning enforcement team, I did all in my power to make things easier for them. A weapon was needed for this kind of work, so they were given two-meter-long ropes and 1.4-meter-long poles. I even had them wear matching police uniforms, which other villages didn’t even provide. It really struck awe into people when they saw them coming. Salaries were of course pretty good. Each person made ten yuan a day. You may think ten yuan is nothing, but in 1991 ten yuan was like 100 yuan today. A village level Party secretary made 130 yuan a month at most. Informers all received a commission of 5%, meaning they could earn over 100 yuan for every person they informed on. You can’t beat that! As for political reward, I instituted a quota system: if someone did a good job, they would be prioritized for Party membership and promotion to village-level cadre. With these measures in place there wasn’t a single person who wouldn’t work their ass off for me, ha ha!

My job got a lot easier once everything was in place. Unlike other village secretaries, I didn’t have to brave the front lines and appeal directly to the masses. Whenever something came up, I simply said the word, and my cadres got to it! Not only did I avoid the firing line of public anger, but in an instant I became one of the best cadres in the county. In those days I was often entreated by other officials to share my experience and expertise. But in truth what expertise did I have? I was simply implementing the great ideas of our county secretary!Induce it, abort it, just don't have it!

Induce it, abort it, just don’t have it!

WITNESS II

I was talking about it again on Monday on the bus to Guan County. It was the Year of the Sheep, and among the locals the campaign was called “the slaughter of the lambs.” I’m afraid there is no one from Guan County today above the age of 40 who doesn’t know about it!

The actual name of that brutal, heartless campaign was the “Hundred Childless Days.” I was in middle school at the time, and from the way my politics teacher described it, it was horrifying.

1991 was the Year of the Sheep, of the lamb, and I had just started elementary school. I can remember seeing a lot of peasants who had had a birth in the family being paraded around on tractors. They were tied up and had signs hanging around their necks. Though I was little at the time and didn’t really read the signs, the tractors had speakers broadcasting the family planning policies, and it sounded so severe.

During the “Hundred Childless Days,” it didn’t matter if your pregnancy was planned or not, if it was your first child or not, or if you had only just been able to have a child after struggling with infertility. Women were rounded up and forced to have an abortion. After being detained by the family planning unit they were sent to an abortion center, and I heard that if anyone gave birth on the way (I suspect those pregnant with their first child), the child would simply be strangled to death ….

I also heard that there were quite a few shacks built along Spring Road in Guanyi to detain women and abort their pregnancies or induce labor. Many were sent to hospitals in neighboring counties, as our county hospital couldn’t handle all of the operations. Some said that children born in those shacks were strangled to death. The county dug massive holes to bury them. All those innocent little lives didn’t get to enjoy even one day of happiness. They were just discarded in those wretched holes.

What a tragedy. A lot of people who were carrying their first child were left barren.

It was the Year of the Lamb, and yet in Guan County the children were so few! If you try to find people who were born in Guan County in 1991, there are hardly any compared to other years!

The old folks say that the campaign took place when the corn was growing. With nowhere else to run, some women hid in the corn to give birth. Then they’d move to a shack and never come out, and only just escape capture! The county secretary, Zeng Zhaoqi, was quickly promoted, trampling on countless lonely infant spirits on his way to the top.

WITNESS III

In 1991, Guan and Xin counties launched the “Hundred Childless Days” campaign. Guan County Secretary Zeng Zhaoqi issued the order that no children were to be born between May 1 and August 10. Because it was the Year of the Sheep, locals referred to the campaign as the “slaughter of the lambs.” Family planning was national policy, and we all had to abide by it. But the “Hundred Childless Days” campaign flew in the face of national policy! It was horrendous!

The first time I saw a trending post about Guan County, my old home, was when the internet cafes there were forced to close [in 2009] as punishment for some issues with the family planning program. When I returned this November to visit family, I almost couldn’t recognize my hometown. It’s changed beyond belief. Guan County today is still strict about family planning. I suppose this is how the local government is doing “good deeds” for the country. As I think back on what happened over ten years ago, it was a very Leftist operation. I think it was called the “year without children.” I was studying outside the province and so didn’t see the campaign unfold with my own eyes. But in summer … no, probably in winter, when I returned home for vacation, every one of my friends and relatives was talking about the campaign. No matter how many months pregnant you were, as long as you hadn’t yet given birth, you were induced. The cruelty with which this national policy was executed in my hometown was simply unprecedented.

I heard from relatives that several pregnant women in our village were sent to shacks built by the side of the county hospital. They described one woman who was very pregnant who went screaming and crying. There was also a college student in Xinji Village who didn’t accept what was happening and had a breakdown, cursing the program. She was strung up on an electricity pole for all the village to see (according to my relatives in Xinji). A lot of families that were about to have a child fled. But, as they say, the monk can’t outrun the monastery. Their homes were destroyed and their relatives captured in retaliation. I know for a fact that my wife’s sister-in-law ran away and hid with a relative. Then her entire family went into hiding. Her uncle was captured and paraded around town. It almost felt like they wanted to wipe out her entire family.

That campaign is one for the history books. Like the Great Leap Forward, it spawned a series of enduring institutions and practices: for example, the rule that once a family gives birth to a male son then they can’t have another child. Or if the first born is a female, you’re allowed to have a second child, but then you can’t give birth ever again, regardless of the sex. At the time, extreme measures were explained by social exigency. But so many years later, we’re still taking extreme measures. [Chinese]