Through a Glass Darkly: American Views of the Chinese Revolution

Overview

Through a Glass Darkly was William Hinton’s last book. It draws on a lifetime of immersion in Chinese politics and society, beginning with the seven years he spent in China, working mainly in agriculture and land reform, until 1953. On his return to the United States in that year, Hinton first encountered the distortions and misrepresentations of the Chinese Revolution that he examines in this book.

Hinton defends the achievements of the Chinese Revolution during the three ...

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Overview

Through a Glass Darkly was William Hinton’s last book. It draws on a lifetime of immersion in Chinese politics and society, beginning with the seven years he spent in China, working mainly in agriculture and land reform, until 1953. On his return to the United States in that year, Hinton first encountered the distortions and misrepresentations of the Chinese Revolution that he examines in this book.

Hinton defends the achievements of the Chinese Revolution during the three decades from 1948 to 1979 from its detractors both in the United States and, since 1979, in China itself. His starting point is the work of John K. Fairbank, for many years a professor at Harvard and the “dean of China Studies” in the United States. But it is not limited to critique. Instead, Hinton's critique of Fairbank leads into a wide-ranging examination of the nature of the transformation attempted in China, its social and political bases, and the causes and consequences of its policies in land reform, agriculture, combating famine, popular culture, industrialization, morality, and much else besides.

Moving from large questions to concrete details, often drawn from his own experiences, Hinton brings everyday life in revolutionary China graphically to life. In a time when the distorted views first developed by U.S. critics of the Chinese Revolution are often propagated by the new Chinese elite themselves, Through a Glass Darkly has more than just historical relevance. For anyone wishing to understand present-day rivalries between the United States and China, Hinton shows how these began. This is a fitting completion of the work of a great scholar and revolutionary.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781583671412
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,028,123
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

William Hinton (1919-2004) was a farmer in Vermont and a legendary figure in the U.S. left. He wrote many books on post-revolutionary China, including Through a Glass Darkly, Iron Oxen, The Great Reversal, Hundred Day War, Shenfan, and Turning Point in China.

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  • Posted March 7, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Brilliant study of lies about China

    This fine study is William Hinton’s last book. Hinton, a farmer from Vermont, was born in 1919 and died in 2004. He wrote many books, including Fanshen, the classic account of land reform in China. In Part 1 he tells the story of the 1950s land reform, in Part 2 he details the counter-revolution that restored the rule of the household economy in rural areas. In Part 3 he studies culture and in Part 4 he explores morality, the famine and class struggle. The book is also a running commentary on the biases and lies of the book Chinese village, socialist state, by Edward Friedman, Paul Pickowicz and Mark Selden, published by Yale University Press in 1991. Hinton also details the biases of John Fairbank, the Harvard history professor who is widely credited with creating the field of modern Chinese studies in the USA. Hinton observes that from 1954 to 1983, China’s economy grew at 7-8 per cent a year (except in the flood and drought years of 1959-61). Grain production more than doubled. With Mao’s leadership, the Chinese people worked for general prosperity, not for individual enrichment. Hinton shows the dire effects of Deng Xiaoping’s counter-revolution, which broke up collective agriculture, restored the household economy, fostered private enterprise and promoted free markets. He also shows the resulting drop in women’s status. As Hinton points out, the ruling class’s big lie is that There Is No Alternative. To establish this lie, they have to trash socialism’s record and demonise Stalin and Mao. Hinton backs not leftist, ‘activist’ demands for abstract justice or absolute equality, but the development of production. The industrial rebuilding of the country is the goal – only this can solve real problems of livelihood. He shows that we must work, not for ideals, but for what we need for material advance.

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