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arhyalon

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09:02 am: Nobody works hard under Communism

A friend told me about a book that sounds just fascinating. It's called A Comrade Lost and Found. It's about a Canadian woman who was one of the first two Westerners invited to study in China, back in the 70s, when they began to open the country a bit more.  A classmate came to her asking for help to escape to the US, and this young woman and her American friend turned the young woman in. Years later, the author returns to China to find out what happened to the classmate she betrayed.

Well, I have not yet been able to find that book. (It's in the limbo between hardback and paperback when things vanish from stores.) But the librarian gave me Red China Blues, a biography by the same woman written in the mid 90s.

The book is utterly fascinating! I knew a little about Soviet Russia but absolutely nothing about Communist China. Boy! The sheer stupidity of the huge mass movements that did things like take unprepared teenagers and just dump them in the country to farm, with no training or explanation, was horrifying. Each page, each chapter brings new glimpses of horror...and this is just from the point of view of someone who was favorable to the system at the time!

But what is most amazing is that China, as described in the 70s, is unrecognizable as the China I visited. I am very curious to read the Comrade book and see modern China through the eyes of this interesting narrator.

 

But one thing in particular that leapt out at me was how little work any of the workers seemed to get done (hours were wasted regularly on political meetings at the places the narrator visited.) I was reminded of a gentleman I once met from Vietnam. When he expressed hatred of Communism, I asked why. I remember thinking, in my naivte, "Oh, he won't know what Communism really is, he just hates the bad guys hurting his people."

 I was so wrong.

He understood exactly what was wrong with it, and one of his main complaints was: nobody worked hard. Since you got paid the same whether you worked hard or not, People didn't. And if you wanted to work hard, you got penalized, because the lazy guy got paid exactly the same as you. 

This book shows that a very similar thing was going on in China.

 




Comments

[User Picture]
From:juliet_winters
Date:January 19th, 2010 02:09 pm (UTC)

librarian hat on

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It looks like it was just reprinted by Mariner books.

It is also available to get through interlibrary loan. Many libraries in Virginia stock it, including Prince William, Alexandria, and Arlington.
I will email you the list of libraries if you decide to go that route, though your librarian should be able to find the same list through FirstSearch.
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From:arhyalon
Date:January 19th, 2010 03:08 pm (UTC)

Re: librarian hat on

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Thanks. Our librarian did put in a request for it for me (to buy it.) I'll ask about an interlibrar loan if something does not come of that rather quickly.
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From:marycatelli
Date:January 19th, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)
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It's worse than the lazy guy getting paid the same. The lazy guys gang up on you for making them look back.

You get the same effect in schools where any student who actually works can get this treatment.
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From:partywhipple
Date:January 20th, 2010 03:48 am (UTC)
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I get this at my job. Snide comments from coworkers for always being at my desk. Fun times...
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From:hannahsarah
Date:January 20th, 2010 08:39 am (UTC)
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This is why I will spend the rest of my life being self employed. I'm not a "team player".
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From:juliet_winters
Date:January 20th, 2010 12:43 pm (UTC)
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I played with the team for quite a while (15 yrs) and now have an office where I am trusted to work more or less at what I please without being constantly supervised. Sometimes being a goody-goody does pay off. Long-term. Of course it helped that I believe in the overall mission of the organization.
Advantage over going it alone: half-way decent, reliable pay and health benefits. And retirement.
My husband wasn't a very good team player, either, until he found the right team.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:January 19th, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)
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This can also happen on the job in a union or mixed shop. My father got into his one and only fistfight when they tried to get him to join the union and he didn't want to.
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From:jjbrannon
Date:January 19th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)

Union shop

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I experienced the same sort of pressure to conform to a lower performance standard when I worked on a union electrical job in the summer of 1980 re-outfitting Chrysler.

"You're making everybody else look bad."


JJB
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From:partywhipple
Date:January 20th, 2010 03:49 am (UTC)
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My brother, at age 15, worked for Shop Rite in NY. He was harassed, physically, by union people because he hadn't signed up. He ended up doing it for fear of being beaten up.
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From:hannahsarah
Date:January 20th, 2010 08:41 am (UTC)
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Same thing happened to me at Safeway in Oregon. I quit after 6 months because I couldn't stand the constant Union harassment. The bastards never got a penny out of me.
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From:bojojoti
Date:January 19th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
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I'm shocked they would turn a student in whose only "crime" was to ask for help. Please let us know what happened to the student when you find out.
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From:arhyalon
Date:January 19th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC)
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Will do.

She actually turned in two people. I don't know if she ever traced down the other one...which was actually three people. (The first was a student. The second was a family of three.)



Edited at 2010-01-19 10:17 pm (UTC)
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From:partywhipple
Date:January 20th, 2010 03:48 am (UTC)
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Yeah, that's where I work... Ugh
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From:brni
Date:January 21st, 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
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saw this in action in yugoslavia in the late 70s/early 80s.

interestingly, marx understood this. he understood that productivity of a communist society would be way below that of a capitalist one, and that in economic competition, the capitalist one would win. communism, in marx's view, would only succeed if adopted globally.

me, i think there's got to be some sane middle ground.
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From:arhyalon
Date:January 21st, 2010 01:25 pm (UTC)
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I don't see how the global issue applies to China, as almost no one in China had any idea what was going on in the outside world. They weren't competing with the outside world.

They were starving and not getting anything done all by themselves.
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From:brni
Date:January 21st, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
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my reading skills are still crap post-surgery, it seems. i missed the entire middle of your post.

i was responding to the no work ethic under communism bit. the soviet union and other communist states failed in competition with capitalist states. china redefined communism to be capitalism with a ruling party dictatorship. and what we're seeing there now is an astounding growth of wealth, but also many of the abuses seen in the industrial revolution.

that model really has no motivational structure - nobody has a stake in the outcome - not the workers or the supervisors, and there ARE no owners. on the other hand, corporate models where the workers are the owners - where they have a direct stake in outcomes (i.e. where "the workers control the means of production") - tend to be quite motivated.

china during the cultural revolution was an aberration, by any standards, as was pol pot's cambodia. these extremes of ideological fervor are as misrepresentative of socialist thought as hitler's germany was of nationalist and capitalist thought, or idi amin's uganda is representative of monarchy (oh, sorry, "president for life").

i think that any time ideological concerns are given more importance than each and all individuals' wellbeing, society is poised to create great injustices.

interestingly, while communism was meant to create greater freedom, i fear that this freedom was measured against the awfulness of the worst of the industrial revolution, as existed in marx's time.
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