POSTSCRIPT for REBEL OUT OF CHINA for the reprint by the Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, written November 2003, by Stephen Endicott.
The University of Toronto Press took pride in its effort to publish the first edition of this book in 1980, assigning an in-house editor and a top designer. But not all was smooth sailing. The outside adjudicators reacted negatively to the manuscript. Their criticisms, although couched in academic language, were mainly of a political nature and they recommended no government subsidy to support its publication. Ordinarily that would kill a book, but undeterred, the Press dipped into its reserves and proceeded. The book became its best seller that year.
On the day of publication a gala celebration at the Press offices toasted James Endicott and his biography and saluted the author for being willing to go against the current, for "daring to be a Daniel." Outside on the main campus of the university for all to see a large glass display case exclusively featured Rebel Out of China with its striking red and yellow cover combining English and Chinese calligraphy. This was an auspicious beginning for the story of a man who in the minds of many Canadians was still a dubious character, a man at one time dubbed "public enemy number one" by the media.
On the invitation of the Student Christian Movement Endicott, at 82, immediately set out on a western tour, from Ottawa to Victoria and places in between to help launch the book. Although he had not been so much in the news or on speaking tours in recent years, people, whether friend or foe, remembered him like a household name and turned out in large numbers to the meetings. Radio talk show hosts invited him on to their programs for lively debates about peace and disarmament, China's place in the world, US cruise missiles being tested over Canada, wars of liberation, and the local newspapers generally gave extensive and largely favourable reviews to his biography. There were definite signs that public opinion was beginning to shift in its attitudes to Jim Endicott and to some of the public issues he had championed for so long. As the years passed Endicott would joke: "I have very few enemies; I've outlived them all!"
The most important barometer of the shift in attitudes towards Endicott occurred in the summer of 1982 when the United Church of Canada held its 29th General Council meeting in Montreal. The highest court of Canada's largest Protestant denomination considered and unanimously passed a resolution of apology for the hurt that it had caused Endicott 36 years earlier. Later, speaking at Endicott's funeral in 1993, the then moderator of the church, The Very Reverend Dr Lois Wilson, said that only twice had the United Church issued a public apology, the first to Endicott and the second to the native peoples of Canada - both for failing to recognize and affirm the strong leadership and spirituality that was being offered publicly.
The press in 1982 had wanted to know "did Endicott change or did the church change, to make that resolution possible?" Wilson responded that Endicott did not change, "he was a prophet, and his life displayed continuity of purpose. But indeed the church had changed over the forty year interval, and that Endicott's costly leadership role had not been insignificant in that change." Endicott's legacy, said Wilson, "is as a peacemaker" as one "who turned the world upside down" and who therefore "was feared and vilified by those who didn't want to see or hear about the political implications of the gospel." (1 December 1993, at Bloor Street United Church).
After the General Council passed its resolution it sent a message to Toronto inviting Endicott to come to Montreal. The next day there was a moment of high drama as the moderator announced to the General Council, "Dr Jim Endicott is in the court and we would like to welcome him." The welcome was a standing ovation. In this emotionally charged atmosphere Endicott addressed the Council briefly and without bitterness. "I never thought I'd live to see the day," he announced. "I didn't have enough trust in the changeability of the institution! I am deeply moved and grateful and humbled before God for your resolution." Prophet and warrior that he was though, Wilson recalled, he was not entirely at ease with an apology. "I will be content," he added, " when the church comes to terms with the findings of modern science regarding the nature of capitalism. I want to see the church accept the revolutionary needs of two thirds of the people of the world, and meet the need for a strong crusade for peace." The United Church Observer, October 1982; 'Statement to the Press', Canadian Far Eastern Newsletter, v. 34, n. 332, Sept-Oct 1982)
Other sections of society which had repudiated Endicott in the 1950s followed the lead of the United Church. In 1983 York University conferred a doctorate and invited Endicott to address its Atkinson College graduating class. His address, "From Hangman's Noose to LLD Hood" provided highlights, both humourous and philosophical, of his long life and concluded, "I will get ready to leave history with one last defiant shout. Don't let the holders of power push you into the paths of insanity and war in the nuclear space age. Fight in every way you can to keep the 21st century on the evolutionary path of peace, co-operation, enlightenment and righteousness." The graduates rose to give him a standing ovation. (Canadian Far Eastern Newsletter, vol 35, no. 340, July-August 1983)
The following year the City of Toronto, celebrating its sesquicentennial, decided to honour several representatives of the community, including Endicott, with a gold medal, an Award of Merit. The mayor, flanked by the archbishop in the full council chamber, read out a citation referring to the fact that the United Church of Canada had reversed action taken many years earlier in repudiating their former missionary and highlighting the fact that Endicott had "campaigned for disarmament, negotiations in place of confrontation, particularly against the use of nuclear weapons, and always against intervention in the revolutions taking place in East Asia, China, Korea and Viet Nam." He had "leveled charges of the practice by the Americans of germ warfare against Korea and China, as well as confirming some Canadian role in testing for biological warfare.....Like Norman Bethune, Jim Endicott came from a Methodist manse....Unlike Bethune, who worked in the 'red' area in China, Endicott worked in the 'white' areas. Although their paths never crossed, both Bethune and Endicott in their different and controversial ways," the mayor concluded, "have contributed to the friendship and understanding between the Chinese and Canadian peoples." (City Council Minutes, Appendix A, 6 March 1984)
Such words coming from the civic leaders, - Endicott could hardly believe his ears! In his reply he joked in ironic vein that he had come a long way since being Public Enemy Number One to receiving an award of merit. He accepted the award on behalf of the Canadian peace movement and affirmed that the cause of peace was still burning in his heart; he hoped everyone present would give every effort to support the new peace initiatives now emerging to end the Cold War.
During the eighties Endicott continued to accept occasional public speaking engagements and requests by students for interviews. He also went on publishing his monthly Canadian Far Eastern Newsletter and reading widely to keep informed of new developments. Along with these activities he delighted in raising a canary and in sharing time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, often spending hours watching tennis and baseball games on the television. To his great enjoyment the Toronto Blue Jays won the world series of baseball twice in a row.
China was never far from his mind. In 1983, on the invitation of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Endicott and his wife Ella went to China for a last visit. They traveled from Beijing to Chengdu, Chongqing, down through the Yangtze River gorges to Nanjing and Shanghai. The trip coincided with the publication of a Chinese edition of Rebel Out of China by the Sichuan People's Publishing House and it served as a book launching. In addition, this time it was arranged that he speak to students wherever he went, sometimes to very large audiences of a thousand or more. Apart from fulsome praise for the achievements of the revolution a main theme of his talks was his critique of the emerging Thatcher/Reagan world order in which an ever more aggressive, cunning, dangerous and militarized United States imperialism was reaching for hegemonic power. His talks did not resonate with the students as thirty years earlier, in the 1950s, because some had grown cynical and many of this new generation were hoping to move to the United States. But they admired the old warrior who walked with a cane and could still orate, joke and answer questions in fluent Sichuanese mandarin. Invariably they ended up giving him standing ovations.
Endicott pondered uneasily how to report to Canadians on his last trip to China. There had been many surprises. He was surprised by the extent and vigour of foreign investment: "it is everywhere except in the remote, interior regions." This appeared to justify the Wall Street Journal claim that "China is up for grabs." Surprised too by the huge investment in tourism, especially aimed at attracting foreigners, he was alarmed by the increase in what the older Chinese were calling "spiritual pollution" and "cultural contamination": the growth of selfishness, personal ambition, hostility to the ideals of socialism and an exaggerated adoration of "the American way of life"' This was the price the Chinese were having to pay for "opening to the West", for adopting the methods of capitalism to serve socialism. Where was it all leading?
He urged patience. The problems of China, he told the Canadian-China Society in November 1983, "are so vast and complicated that they are enough to break the heart of any good and well-meaning government." The Chinese, he said, were engaged in a massive, long-term struggle to increase the food supply, to raise the economic status of peasants, to control the crisis of over-population, to increase housing space, to get more energy, more transportation, more schools, to control droughts and floods, to decide how to open to Western investment and technology and how to develop friendship with peoples as distinct from their governments. "Those are the main problems of China," he thought, "and they will endure for a long, long time." He wanted to believe that China would rise to the challenge and he expressed optimism about the development of the huge socialist experiment.
But he had doubts too. And his memory returned to the poetry of William Wordsworth which he had studied intensively while writing his Master of Arts thesis at the University of Toronto. Especially the "London sonnets" written around 1800 when the French Revolution and its supporters, of which Wordsworth had been one, were faltering:
Milton! thou should'st be living at this hour,
England hath need of thee...
We are selfish men,
Oh! raise us up, return to us again,
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power...
Endicott thought some good poet should write a Chinese one and he made a stab at it:
Chairman Mao, you should be living at this hour,
China has need of you! You raised an army
And a party to serve the people.
Today selfishness, money and admiration
For rich capitalism are rife.
(Canadian Far Eastern Newsletter, v. 41, n.394, March 1989 item on "New Class System Thrives on Pressure for Profits.")
A few weeks before Endicott died in 1993 a message came to the Toronto hospital where he was now living saying that China wished to honour him with the People's Friendship Ambassador medal, the highest award given to foreigners. Ambassador Zhang Yijun and his party arrived from Ottawa and made the presentation in the presence of family members and the press corps. Endicott was too weak to respond, but his son Norman, as arranged, stepped forward to thank the ambassador for his citation: "On behalf of my father and all of us, we want to thank the Chinese people for their great contribution to our happiness and well being, for their patience in increasing our understanding of the world of hardworking peasants," he said. " We wish we had been able to do more and will continue to uphold the century-old [family] tradition of working for friendship and equality between peoples of all lands."
Then unexpectedly, or perhaps not so unexpectedly, Endicott indicated he wished to add something. Straining forward, holding the newly minted friendship medal in his hand, the old man thanked Ambassador Zhang and then in faint but determined tones added, "At least, China is strong, free and independent." Exhausted by this effort he sank into his pillows, eyes closed. Everyone present hardly knew what to think. Expressing some kind of disappointment and at the same time hope these were virtually his last words.
So much had happened to China in the 95 years since a son had been born in the shadow of a white pagoda in Leshan! For the first half century the marines of such powers as Britain, Japan and the United States had occupied parts of Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hankou and other important cities of China following the suppression of the Boxer Uprising. Fifty years later the People's Liberation Army had thrown out all the imperialist powers and brought China to her feet. After liberation in 1949 the Chinese people had embarked on the project of building a New China, committed to a socialist future free from the exploitation of man by man and the polarization of society into rich and poor. These were inspiring developments, as this biography has recounted, and they had Endicott's passionate and enthusiastic support. His last words signaled that in his mind, the vision of socialism in China, at least as he understood the idea, was dimmed, no longer on the agenda, but not all had been in vain.
Endicott died in Toronto on 27 November 1993. Following his wishes his ashes were divided into two parts. One part went to China and was scattered in the waters of the Dadu River at his birthplace, there to mingle in the ever-flowing current -- part of the Taipings, the Long March, the people's communes - and yet to come heroic struggles of the Chinese people. The other part found a place by his parents' grave in Toronto's Mount Pleasant cemetery.
- Stephen Endicott