那三年.../Those Three Years
Updated: Jul 11
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昨天看到这样一条微博：@caochangdi ：【纽约3】12月1日。民间记忆计划在纽约大学宣传单出来了，题目是Getting the Past Out Loud: Memory Projects with Wu Wenguang。简介提到：五部纪录片，来自民间记忆计划。该计划出发于北京草场地工作站，以“大饥荒”历史采访搜集开始，年轻的纪录片作者分头返回家乡村子，返回过去，返回真实和想象。 戏剧性出现是其中一个老人，他坚决同意片子到国外放映，并且一个个去说服那些不同意国外放映的老人，直至每个人都被说服。这个过程都在《吃饱的村子》片子中。
I'm writing a somewhat heavy journal today. The kid in the photo with the hat is my dad; the little girl standing is my aunt; the guy on the right is my uncle, and the one on the left is my grandmother. The photo was taken around 1958.
Just after that year, mainland China experienced the three-year famine (1959-1961), which is also known as the "Great Leap Forward Movement" in textbooks. The leaders decided to develop industry at the expense of agriculture, a policy that led to nationwide food shortages and famine. As for the exact number of unnatural deaths during that period, there is still a big controversy, ranging from 3 million to 80 million according to different sources.
I heard this experience more than once from my grandmother: At that time, families were not allowed to cook for themselves, and if smoke came out of anyone's pipe, the commune immediately came to raid the house and smashed all the pots and stoves. Every meal was a small bowl of thin rice issued by the commune, nothing else, and people were so hungry that they couldn't walk steadily. Even so, they had to work in the fields collectively every day. How could we work if we couldn't even walk steadily? Actually, we don't work! A group of people sat at the edge of the field and shouted slogans together. Too hungry to move, they could only shout slogans. Later, even thin rice congee was not available, and people had to rely on bark, grassroots, wild vegetables, and whatever they could get for food. Sometimes they had to eat raw because the family is not allowed to start a fire. Many people walked and fell directly on the roadside and died of hunger.
One day, my grandmother went home early because she was too tired to shout labor slogans. My father, who was only a few years old at the time, was found convulsing in bed, foaming at the mouth from hunger, and was about to die. My grandmother found a small handful of flour from the tiny gaps in the bamboo basket, put it in a bowl of water, boiled it over a fire, and fed it to my father. That's how my dad got over it. My grandmother said that if she hadn't come home early that day, my father would not have been able to make it through.
A decision by a leader can affect countless people in a country, and countless people have even died because of that decision, isn't that crueler than the killing by foreign invaders? The government of the time still engaged in massive food exports and foreign aid during the three years of hardship. This aid in exchange for so-called diplomatic support smelled of bloodshed.
Former Vice Premier Tian Jiyun said, "Looking back at the three-year hardship period, there were malnourished edema and starving deaths everywhere, and tens of millions of people died unnaturally, more than during the entire democratic revolution. What is the reason? Liu Shaoqi said '30% natural disaster, 70% man-made disaster', now it is basically a man-made disaster, this 'man-made disaster' is the blind command, is the utopian ideal socialism." (Tian Jiyun: "Reviewing the History of China's Rural Reform")
To date, no one has apologized for the blind command.
Yesterday I saw this post on Weibo: @caochangdi : [New York 3] Dec. 1. The Folk Memory Project's flyer at NYU came out, titled Getting the Past Out Loud: Memory Projects with Wu Wenguang, and the introduction mentions: five documentaries from the Folk Memory Project. The project began with a workstation in Caochangdi, Beijing, where the young documentarians returned to their home villages, to the past, to the real and the imagined, starting with historical interviews on the Great Famine. The drama emerges with one of the old men, who strongly agree to show the film abroad, and goes one by one to convince those who do not agree to show the film abroad until everyone is convinced. This process is all in the film "The Well-Fed Village".
This project is very meaningful. To record, reflect on and publicize these histories in order to avoid their repetition and to keep more and more truths from being buried forever with the passage of time. Those who are alive are the survivors of those three years of human disaster, and we, the descendants of the survivors. There should be more such organizations and individuals to record the oral history of those who lived through it. Even those old folk trades, old crafts, old towns, and old alleys are worthy of systematic image compilation and recording. Indeed, time and memory wait for no one.