More pigs, more fertiliser, increased grain yield
Artist: Xu Hongduo and Kong Xiangren
Publisher: Jiangsu Art & Culture Publishing House
Size (mm): 528x768
Condition: Very good, fold to centre, creasing and small tears to margins, very delicate paper
The first renmin gongshe (people's commune) - the Chayashan Satellite People's Commune - was established in Henan province on 29 April 1958. With the purpose of organising rural production in the countryside on a vast scale, the communes were authorised by the Chinese Communist Party in August 1958 at the Beidaihe Conference. A nationwide campaign launched in December resulted in the formation of over 26,000 such organisations. As part of the larger Great Leap Forward policy, the communes formed the top administrative level presiding over the progressively smaller production brigades and teams. Mao Zedong declared the new system, which consolidated the income and production of several villages, to be vital to the new route to Chinese communism and by 1959 over 99 percent of the rural population had been assimilated into communes - some of which had over 100,000 members.
Achieving a high grain yield in the countryside was key to supporting the higher levels of investment necessary for the rapid breakthroughs planned in the heavy industry sector. In contrast to the modern soviet model, the responsibility for setting output targets was placed by Mao directly into the hands of provincial party secretaries - who felt they had no choice in the political climate but to respond optimistically. The competition and fear of under-performance led to drastic over-reporting of output and in turn ever-increasing pressures on cadres to fulfil their quotas.
Increasing grain yields in the communes was to be achieved in part by cultivating more land and vastly improving irrigation systems, and the peasants were mobilsed en masse, around the clock in huge construction projects. Participation was obligatory, with the only source of food being the communal canteens where labour provided the right to eat. The two new initiatives of deep plowing and close planting were to be applied in the fields - the latter simply requiring seeds to be planted much closer together with the addition of great amounts of fertiliser. Results were poor as this meant the sprouts were competing for light and nutrients, so much grain and fertiliser was wasted while output was reduced. Pigs were used as a major source of organic fertiliser, as can be seen in this 1960 poster where workers collect fertiliser from pigs in the early morning or evening light. While it was certainly known by 1960 that the policies and practices of the Great Leap Forward were failing, posters from this period continued to paint a rosy picture and encourage even greater efforts to achieve its success.