People around the world have been dying to get out of communism, while at the same time people around the world are dying to get into capitalistic America. Using the movie China Cry: A True Story set in the 1950s, I intend to elaborate the antimony of Marx’s inadequate ideology with several contradictions that it generated in the life of Nora Lam. The movie beautifully amplifies the duality of socialism and capitalism as Nora Lam is forced to give up her God, her family and her identity never achieving anything close to Marx's ideal.
Initially, Sung Neng Yee, referred to in the rest of this piece by her American name, Nora Lam, is a young girl eager to become part of Mao Tze Tung's “new society,” but it doesn't take long until she is disenchanted by the changes communism brings. When the authorities become aware of her change of heart she is taken to a labor camp. Although they take her from her husband, two of her children and her mother all their attempts to take away her individuality and her God are thwarted.
“War stole my privileged childhood,” says Nora as the Koreans forced her family from their home, took the jewelry her mother was wearing and brutally killed the chauffer opening the door for the family of the car that was no longer theirs. About ten years later, after what Nora calls “mind defying violence,” like many she was grateful to be free, ripe for the salvation the red flag seemed to bring. “They’re returning our country to us,” she told her mother, “we must show respect.”
Conversely, in their attempts to break Nora of her bourgeois tendencies, the communist officials showed her no respect. Her supernatural God disturbed the dialectic thread of Marx’s theory that refuses to acknowledge anything that cannot be perceived by the five senses. In their attempt to persuade the people that all religion was merely a drug to be rejected by reasonable people, they became unreasonable. Work camps and torture chambers were the consequences for what the leaders considered fundamental theological errors. However, instead of undermining Nora’s childhood faith, it became real as she suffered under Communist persecution. She refused to deny Christ even while enduring physical abuse late in her pregnancy courage strength to survive all odds.
In the movie churches were turned into factories “to better serve the great revolution.” Nora looked in wonder as Christian Chinese women mouthed songs of praise to God in silence, which brings me to a convincing secondary source to support Nora Lam’s confidence in her King . . . the Bible.
For the choir director: A love song to be sung to the tune “Lilies.”
A psalm of the descendants of Korah.
1 Beautiful words stir my heart.
I will recite a lovely poem about the king,
for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet.
2 You are the most handsome of all.
Gracious words stream from your lips.
God himself has blessed you forever.
3 Put on your sword, O mighty warrior!
You are so glorious, so majestic!
4 In your majesty, ride out to victory,
defending truth, humility, and justice.
Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds!
5 Your arrows are sharp, piercing your enemy’s hearts.
The nations fall beneath your feet.
6 Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.
You rule with a scepter of justice. . . (Psalm 45).
When Communism failed to convince everyone of its ideology, its supporters imposed their ideology by force. As does much religious persecution in the last century, if one would not remove themselves from their religion, they would be forcefully removed from it. Under repressive atheistic Communism in China, party leaders became the new god, the new bourgeois, the new oppressors.
The dictionary defines ‘manifesto’ as a “public declaration explaining past actions and announcing the motive for forthcoming ones,” originally “proof” from Latin manifestus(manifesto). Relating to communism's religious beliefs, the Communist Manifesto would be their creed . . . a draft of the Communist Confession of Faith. The duality of the Communist Manifesto went beyond the obvious communism / socialism, nonowning worker and nonworking owner, bourgeois and proletarians. Marx says:
The history of all past society has consisted in the development of class antagonisms . . .assum[ing] different forms at different epochs . . . The Communist revolution is the most radical rupture with traditional property relation; no wonder that its development involves the most radical rupture with traditional ideas.
But let us have done with the bourgeois objections to Communism . . . Political power . . . is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another.
The antimony: as the Communist Manifesto condemns government, religion and traditional culture as tools of a repressive capitalist class, Mao Tze Tung's “new society” represses the people brutally. Communist commander continue to try and break her even to the point of putting her before a firing squad. But even a that supernatural event does not bring her ordeal to an end.
Succeeding the duality of Marx's ideal and the reality of Nora Lam’s God is her family life in Communist China. She had been adopted by her family in Shanghai in 1941, and was treated like a princess . . . until the bombs dropped literally and figuratively. The movie shows the real horror wasn’t the loss of her bourgeois life and the economic misery to her family. Nora finds her mom gambling and insists on knowing where she got the money. Her mother explained she’d enjoyed haggling for an hour to get a good price for a silk scarf. “Where will I wear it? It’s out of fashion now,” she laughed. She enjoyed. They laughed. Their family unit was nurturing, loving and satisfying.
However, while the Communist party never achieved anything close to Marx’s ideal, over the years they ripped her precious family from her. While she is still in school, her father, a doctor, is persecuted severely. He is shamed, demoted, and once again the family is forced to leave the house they live in. This time it is being papered with propaganda - lies to discredit and humiliate them. One evening when her father doesn’t come home, Nora searches the hospital for him. She finds the hospital in deplorable chaotic conditions and she finds her father under armed guard scrubbing the bathroom floors, while the halls are crowded with needy people. Her father is ultimately used as a guinea pig for medical testing and bleeds to death.
The Communist Manifesto states: “Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another . . . if compelled by force to organize itself as a class . . . by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class . . . sweep[ing] away by force the old conditions of production.” Therefore, sweeping away the conditions, antagonizing and “abolishing its own supremacy as a class” (77). The ideal: putting an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations; the reality: not "abolishing its own supremacy as a class, but the new ruling class opressing those it considers better or a threat to themselves brutally.
During the next few years, Nora marries and has two children. She is continually subjected to excruciating persecution, but bargains for her husband and daughter's release to Hong Kong. Looking to God’s promise to bring her entire family to freedom, she envisions a life wiht her family in America and she holds to this vision as she is sent to hard labor while she is pregnant with her third child. Those who abused her and the China Cry audience watches her pregnant miraculouslytwelve months, until she and her small son are freed.
Finally, the party leaders could not depersonalize Nora Lam as a cog in industrial/social machine - Marx's ideal. The reality in the duality is that Nora Lam could not be forced to give up her identity, anymore than she would surrender her God or her family. Her God, the God of the Bible, says human actions are different than those of a machine. He says we’re a body.
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. (1 Corinthians 12).
Although they tried, Nora Lam would not be forced to be someone she wasn’t. She was a voice, a constant compelling voice declaring her truths. She was not contentn to be quiet and merely watch like eyes the abuse and hopelessness. She wasn't a nose to stick into others business, and then tattle and lie for whatever compensation the government was giving.
The fundamental ideology of communism holds that all people are entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labour but are prevented from doing so in a capitalist economic system. Nora Lam found and showed her audience that collective ownership stifled dreams, imagination and potential. This is how Fairy Tales REALLY end.
Fredric Bender, ed. Marx, Karl The Communist Manifesto. New York: Norton and Company, Inc., 1988.
"manifesto." Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 11 May. 2010.
Mark R. Norton, ed., Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1996.
Meenan, John-Paul. "Communist manifesto: the abolition of man" The Free Library 01 September 2009. 10 May 2010
Mitchinson, Phil. “The Living Ideas of Karl Marx.” March, 2003. Web. April 20, 2010. http://www.marxist.com/150years/living_ideas_marx.html
Walker, Chas. “Marxism 101 - To each according to his Greed? Class 2.” Sep 4, 2009. Web. April 22, 2010. www.youtube.com/watch?v=8A_YUUBpKV4