William Hinton, Shenfan: The Continuing Revolution in a Chinese Village (1983)
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On Shenfan: Mao, Rural Development, and Two-Line Struggle (This article was written as a foreword to the Chinese edition of Shenfan, which is the title of the second volume of the history of Long Bow Village, Shanxi Province, China. The first volume, Fanshen, told the story of the land reform that transformed the community between 1945 and 1948. Shenfan takes up the story with the organization of mutual aid leading first to lower and then to higher stage cooperation between 1948 and 1971, the year Hinton first returned to China after a U.S. government mandated absence of seventeen years.)
To the delight of many, William Hinton’s Shenfan arrived last Spring  and we could now follow the development of rural Long Bow village from where Hinton’s remarkable Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village (Monthly Review Press) left us in 1948. In that first volume of this projected trilogy, Hinton chronicled the Fanshen (literally “to turn over”) of Long Bow peasants as they learned “to stand up, to throw off the landlord yoke, to gain land, stock, implements, and houses.” It is in Shenfan (literally “deep plowing”) that we can view the efforts to urge these giant changes forward as Hinton takes us through the far more complex history of these villagers from that year before New China’s existence to 1971, during the cooperative movement, the Great Leap Forward, and the Four Clean and Socialist Education campaigns.
To have these monumental social, economic, political, and educational movements that racked China for decades arranged here in one continual narrative is in itself greatly superior to the isolated accounts we typically receive. To have Hinton for our guide into the contending political meeting rooms, households, factories, farms, and the hearts and minds of the participating peasants provides unique access to how this history was made. Of necessity Shenfan is a far more demanding and ambitious work than Fanshen since it must analyze this socialist advance on its wounded battlefields, accepting the challenge of Fanshen to discover where, how, and if “the peasants were gradually learning the central lesson of our time, ‘that only through participation in common struggle can any individual achieve personal emancipation.’”
Here Hinton’s search is in fact a dual one; he plunges into rural China to force out socialism’s trail, and he plunges into himself, exhibiting a struggle with his own expectation that is heroic and totally devoid of sentimentality. In allowing the evidence of experience and report to weigh out over long-standing personal hopes as well as official rhetoric, Shenfan becomes a model of intellectual courage. It is a proud book which, like all art, creates its own compelling narrative, here formed by a rhythm of devotion, puzzlement, and despair, and an abiding optimism that is our most meaningful freedom. For ten years Hinton yanked his guts out over what he learned from many trips to Long Bow and elsewhere in China, and over how to convey all this with justice.