Weather keepers for the revolution (an essay from China)

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This excerpt is the third essay of the 1972 edition of “Serving the People with Dialectics”, which tells the story of weather forecasters in their daily application of materialist dialectics to socialist construction. Enjoy!

Weather keepers for the revolution, by Chungtso County Weather Station Workers, Kwangsi Chuang Autonomous Region

The seven of us at this weather station are all young. Some studied meteorology in university, others learned weather forecasting in technical schools or special training classes. Most of us came here after 1964, without experience. But the poor and lower-middle peasants depended on us very much for weather forecasting and said we were to be their “weather keepers”.

We, too, were enthusiastic revolutionaries, but because we had been influenced by the revisionist line in education, we knew only what was in our books, and our forecasts were either late of inaccurate, or both. Once there was a cold wave follower by thirteen days of rain. But we had forecast ten days of fine weather, so that early rice was sown. The result was that the rice shoots rotted, spring planting was affected, and the commune members were not satisfied with our work.

Our mistakes and setbacks taught us that in order to forecast well we must solve the contradiction between man and the weather. Chairman Mao teaches us that “it is the people, not things, that are decisive”. We must appreciate the close relationship between our work and socialist construction, that our work serves proletarian politics. We determined to observe wind and cloud for the revolution, to be weather keepers for the people.

Learning from the peasants

Following Chairman Mao’s teaching that correct ideas “come from social practice, and from it alone; they come from three kinds of social practice, the struggle for production, the class struggle and scientific experiment”, we went to the countryside for reeducation by the poor and lower-middle peasants and to learn from them how they watched the weather.

The poor and lower-middle peasants welcomed us. An old poor peasant of seventy said, “In the old society I wasn’t bad at weather forecasting, but I couldn’t tell how I did it, or the landlord might have profited from it. Today we work for the revolution and I’ll tell you everything I know”. He gave us more than fifty pointers in weather forecasting.

With the poor and lower-middle peasants as our teachers we got 340 pointers, including a lot of common sense summed up in folk sayings. We learned how the peasants interpret sky conditions, such as foggy morning turning into a sunny day, and also forecasting from insect movements. We learned to watch for ants moving their hills, worms coming up our of the earth, and dragonflies flying low. By using the peasants’ experience in combination with our book knowledge, we increased the accuracy of our confidence in and reliance on the masses. We set up eight forecasting groups of experienced peasants in the county, and made a practice of asking their advice in our work.

Studying the laws of weather changes

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We further applied Chairman Mao’s teaching about “discarding the dross and selecting the essential, eliminating the false and retaining the true, proceeding from the one to the other and from the outside to the inside”, and put our knowledge into practice, summed up experience, made analyses in the light of Chairman Mao’s philosophic concepts, and formulated theories. We found our forecasting was further facilitated.

For example, beginning on May 15, 1969, there was moderate rain over the county for three days running, followed by warm days and cold nights. We checked our data against an old folk saying that “when the days are warm and the nights cold, the East Sea dries up”, and noted that as a rule if between May and September a rain was followed by variation in day and night temperatures of more than ten degrees, there would be a long dru period. We forecast drought, so that the commune members stored and saved water, and in fact the drought came.

As revolution and production developed, the poor and lower-middle peasants requested more accurate forecasts of such pronounced weather changes as typhoon and cold wave, and to make our forecasts far enough ahead of the change to enable them to plan their production well. This presented us with a challenge.

Cold waves are a threat to early rice seedlings, and to forecast their onset we made investigations among the old peasants and took into consideration their saying that “when the south wind blows hard, the north wind will return the visit”. We studied Chairman Mao’s teaching that “in given conditions, each of the two opposing aspects of a contradiction invariably transforms itself into its opposite as a result of the struggle between them”, in referring to our data. A contest between a cold and a hot air current usually resulted in a strong south wind. What were the conditions leading to the transformation into a cold wave? We found that if the wind from the south during the day was stronger than four meters per second (14.4 kilometers an hour) and kept up from four to six days, it gave rise to its opposite and a cold wave followed. We went on to determine variables in these conditions and how long the cold spell would last. Our accuracy in forecasting cold waves was nine out of eleven times in 1969, and seven out of eight times in 1970.

Over the years we have often met with such a situation: when typhoons hit Kwangsi, our country either had heavy rain with gale-force winds, gales but no rain, heavy rain without gale, or was sometimes unaffected. Why? We studied this teaching of Chairman Mao: “It [materialist dialectics] holds that external causes are the condition of change and internal causes are the basis of change, and that external causes become operative through internal causes”. We carefully examined the meteorological data we had accumulated over the past twelve years and the peasants’ long experience, and found that the effects of the typhoon are determined by the internal causes of local meteorological factors, chiefly humidity. In July 1969, for example, when our country was busy fighting a drought, the regional weather service forecast medium to heavy rain in southern Kwangsi in the wake of an approaching typhoon. But in our country the humidity was not high, and provided no condition for heavy rain. We did not forecast rain, so that the country’s timely fight against drought was not halted.

The poor and lower-middle peasants, from their long struggle with nature, have discovered many interconnections in weather changes. For example they say “a dry winter means a wet spring”, and “a cold winter means a warm spring”, and that “a long spell of good weather is sure to be followed by the continuous rain, and vice versa”, also that “when the moon is covered by clouds during the Moon Festival (the 15th day of the eighth lunar month”, it will rain on the 15th day of the first lunar month”. From these interconnections they had drawn certain laws of weather changes.

We compared these connections with our meteorological data over twelve years. Our monthly charts revealed that interconnections of this sort occurred each 180 days. With this as basis, and considering other relevant factors, we diagrammed the weather pattern for each 180 day period. Thus we achieved our accurate forecasts of heavy rain nine times out of eleven in 1969.

Still, our diagram only helped in forecasting rain, not the amount of it. Chairman Mao teaches us: “Often correct knowledge can be arrived can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process leading from matter to consciousness and then back to matter, that is, leading from practice to knowledge and then back to practice”. To determine the amount, we collected data on heavy rain during July and August from 1963 to 1969, carefully analyzed the weather preceding the 180 day period, formulated some general laws and then charted the heavy rains, which helped in forecasting the volume of the rainfall.

Applying knowledge to practice

Chairman Mao points out: “Marxist philosophy holds that the most important problem does not lie in understanding the laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world”. We followed this teaching, applying our knowledge of the laws of weather changes to our work, testing our forecasting and summing up our experience, not only to serve agriculture, but to serve industrial and other departments as well.

Our accurate forecast one August day when it looked like rain in the morning but did not actually rain until three in the afternoon enabled a production brigade, anxious to avoid seed sprouting, to sun their rice without worry that day.

One night at 11 o’clock we found that a rainstorm was coming and warned a railway station to cover exposed goods. Hotels and hostels use our forecasts in planning their laundry, while transport departments consult our advanced weather forecasts in loading and unloading, and arranging routes. Now the people of Chungtso County say that we “really take care of the weather!”.

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