Pa Chin: the Latest News

Pa Chin, of course, is the Chinese anarchist writer, also known as Li Fei-kan.

Though he had a tremendous following in the 1920s and 1930s, his books were banned after 1949 and later allowed to be published only in expurgated editions with all references to anarchism and all libertarian ideas/characters edited out. During the "Cultural Revolution" Pa Chin was pilloried by Red Guards as a "bourgeois element" and forced into seclusion. In the past few years he has emerged once again, has been seen in various official literary positions, and has even been reported to be in the process of writing a new novel. Lest it be assumed that the post-Gang of Four authorities are taking a softer line towards non-party activities, however, it is important to understand the true basis of the new "lenient" attitude. A recent article on Pa Chin explains it all- for us: he was never an anarchist at all!

The article is one entitled 'A Tentative Discussion of Pa Chin's World Outlook and His Early Writings' by Li To-wen in the magazine 'Literary Review' (Wen-hsüeh P'ing-Lu un), 1979 No. 2. Li discusses Pa Chin's literary activities during the 1920s and his "flirtation" with anarchism, pointing out that he was criticized for advocating anarchism, because it drew young people away from Marxism. Pa Chin was denounced as an advocate of personal freedom more than a foe of feudalism and imperialism. Li then goes on to say that this view was the result of a too-selective treatment of Pa Chin's writings. If one looks at his whole literary output one finds that he was never an anarchist at all, merely a democratic revolutionary! (though still inferior to Marx-Leninist "true" revolutionaries of course). Pa Chin's anarchism was not true anarchism at all, merely the influence of western anarchist ideas brought in through the May 4 Movement of 1919. Slogans like "absolute freedom" and "absolute democracy" were no more than expressions of opposition to feudalism and imperialism.

The article ends on an apparently conciliatory note, suggesting that perhaps it was necessary for young people to absorb anarchistic ideas in order to sharpen their awareness of the oppressiveness of Chinese society (many Red Guards found them helpful once again in 1966! - WT). The underlying message, however, is that anarchism is not a revolutionary position at all, just a transitory idealism limited to the stage of the bourgeois revolution. "Proletarian revolutionaries", of course (though the article doesn't say so), have to swallow their ideals and compromise with the most gullible or opportunistic elements on the reactionary side in order to "capture power by any means". Whoever seizes power in the end, it is the anarchists who must bear the brunt of the repression that always follows. Pa Chin is a living example.