The oxen and communism

Progress has always been an exciting topic for human being. As a curious creature, we tend to see things in a line: both backward and forward. Throwing a ball into the room, the dogs will run after it while a man will look for where it is from and heading to.

For kids, the curiosity is so enormous that they will keep asking questions until the end of the line. Adults, particularly those with less imagination, sometimes find it hard to cope with it.

But Fugui, a poor Chinese man in the movie “To live,” handled it decently.

When carrying his little son You-qing on the back to school, he talked to him:

“Our family is like little chickens,

“When the chicks grow big, they will turn into geese;

when the geese get big enough, they will turn into lambs;

when the lambs have grown, they will turn into oxen…

“And what’s after the oxen?” His little son asked.

and  from the oxen …communism, and everybody will have meat to eat every day!”

To live

To live

People think about progress differently. For Fugui, communism is simply the era when everyone has enough meat to eat (perhaps in this sense communism is less attractive to those in the West who would prefer organic vegetables). He doesn’t think much about class struggle or overthrowing the capitalist structure. If his son has meat to eat, then who cares? Little improvement in life is much more meaningful than a mirage of paradise.

There are only two types of perfectly equal society: they are primitive communism where all people have too little, and Marxist communism where they have too much. Anything in between is evil.  Human beings are only kind-hearted either when they have nothing or when they have everything.

The tragedy is that most of the time we live in “evil” states, where it is out of mind to dream on living in  the Stone Age while the ideal communist society, on the other hand, seems always be out of reach. Human have been dragged down by (a lot of) poverty, incurable diseases, and a whole bunch of other evils to deal with.

The lifetime of a human being is sadly short. Should we sacrifice one, or even several generations, for any kind of struggle that might succeed or lead to nowhere but in either cases those who fight for it can’t enjoy the fruits anyway? Or should we do some practical stuff that deal with day-to-day issues instead?

I’d rather choose the latter. Only things that better the lives of the living matter. If I am happy with my society, then whatever you name it: authoritarian, democratic, communist, socialist, or even feudal, is just not important at all.

Back to the story of Fugui. Years later, after going through a series of tragedies in life, nicely caused by the Cultural Revolution, he saw himself in the same situation again. This time he was with his grandchildren playing on the ground.

-”Grandpa, what will the chickens become when they grow up?

-“My dear Little Bun, when the chicks grow big, they will turn into geese,” He said.

 when the geese get big enough, they will turn into lambs,

when the lambs have grown, they will turn into oxen…and then Little Bun grows up and life gets better.”

This is it. The crucial thing in the end is not socialism, capitalism, or whatever you might propose, but a good life for all.


  1. Coincidently I was thinking along the same line when reading about Marxism yesterday. Even assuming what Marx believed is true (which I highly doubt), that socialism is the inevitable development phase after capitalism, it would still take hundreds of years for such revolution to occur (given how long feudalism lasted). Then would it really be wise to try going the shortcut and make generations suffer in between?

    No, I don’t think so.

    1. Marx didn’t really believe in “great leap forward,” ie one backward society can reach to the communist status just simply by a violent revolution. Asked by some Russian communists some years before his death, he didn’t think Russia would succeed in the “communist revolution” first. Instead he thought of Britain, the richest and most developed country on Earth at that time. He never really suggested a shortcut. So Marx would be happy to see the Nodic countries with their social democracy as concrete steps towards socialism, while denounce what he would see in North Korea or Cuba. Marx’s only fault, perhaps, is his ideas are too complicated and too broad to gasp, while easy to be abused.

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