It was a competitive display of selflessness that swept a whole generation; the more selfless you were, the more you impressed the masses, and the more likely you were to be promoted within the </a>organisation from the Anti-British League to the MCP, a communist party in the middle of a revolution.</p>


In contrast, when we had to find workers, it was a real problem. We recruited volunteers from the unions and from among friends, but they all wanted to go home in time for dinner, for some function or other, or for a private appointment. There was no total commitment, no dedication as on the other side</p>

I used to be quite depressed by the long-term implications of all this. I failed to realise then that they could not keep it up for long. Revolutionary zeal could only carry them thus far. In the end, they had to live and bring up families, and families required money, housing, health care, recreation and the other good things of life.</p>

One odd thing about them though, was that when they abandoned communism, as some young Chinese middle school student leaders did, they often became extremely avaricious to make up for lost time. They seemed to feel that they had been robbed of the best years of their lives and had to make up for what they had missed. It was a preview of what I was to see later in China and Vietnam. When the revolution did not deliver utopia and the economy reverted to the free market, cadres, with the power to issue licences or with access to goods and services at official prices, were the first to be corrupt and exploit the masses.</p>