The first is called ‘Stalin, Affirmative Action and the Pentecost of Language‘, and the second, ‘Why a Marxist Entrepreneur is not a Contradiction in China‘.

The third of my China series on Political Theology Today is now up – a revised version of the article on the Hong Kong Protests and Christianity in China.


Every now and then you come across a real shocker of a book. I refer to Jasper Becker’s book on Beijing, called City of Heavenly Tranquility. While it attempts to provide a potted history of Beijing, the underlying thesis is that Beijing’s reconstruction is aimed at obliterating any memory of the Tiananmen ‘massacre’. Of course, he has to construct the fiction of the massacre in the first place to justify such an intriguing argument. Or, to be more polite, the whole book is an extraordinary piece of rubbish. But then what you expect from Jasper Becker, who is as about as rabidly anti-communist as one can get? For instance, his book, Hungry Ghosts, undertakes a comparable task to Robert Conquest’s Harvest of Sorrow. Conquest constructs the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 as a deliberate act of ‘mass murder’ – genocide in other words, now dubbed the ‘Holodomor’. In a similar effort to construct a Goebbels-like big lie, Becker suggests largely the same for Mao’s Great Leap Forward in 1958-62.

This stuff is to be expected, especially from a journalistic and scholarly machine that has a default anti-communist position. But I must admit to being a trifle disappointed that the works come from Oxford University Press. In fact, of all the books on China, and indeed the USSR, from Oxford, only half a dozen are of any real use. Actually, I am not surprised at all. It’s Oxford, after all.

The other day, when I was strolling through the local shops, I came across a big screen full of graceful Chinese dancers prancing about. Intrigued, I stopped to ask the smiling man about them.

‘Shen Yun,’ he said, ‘traditional Chinese dance’, he said. ‘We have two shows in Sydney coming soon’.

‘What a shame’, I said, ‘I’ll be in China then’.

The smile disappeared. ‘You can’t see this in China’, he said.

‘Why not?’ I said.

‘The Chinese government won’t allow it?’ he said. ‘They won’t allow any traditional culture or religion in China – Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, all forbidden’.

Puzzled, I said: ‘But I have been to Confucian congresses, Daoism research centres, and Buddhist temples – plenty of those all over China’.

‘They are all fake’ he said. ‘It’s a sham perpetrated by the Chinese communist party. Only Shen Yun, or Divine Performing Arts, presents the truth of 5,000 years of civilisation‘.

Genuinely surprised, I asked, ‘So where is Shen Yun based?’

‘New York’, he said.

Then it hit me: ‘Genuine Chinese culture is found only in New York?’ I asked. ‘What about Disneyland?’

‘Anywhere, except in China’, he said.

I pondered this dialectical possibility for a while, and then the light bulb slowly went on: ‘You wouldn’t be supported by Falun Gong by any chance?’

‘Yes!’ he said, and pointed to some tiny print on the back of a flyer. He seemed to feel the message was getting through.

‘That’s a very impressive con job‘, I said with genuine admiration.

Stalin may have made the odd mistaken prediction, but in regard to China he was on the money:

Great popular revolutions never achieve final victory in the first round of their battles. They grow and gain strength in the course of flows and ebbs. That has been so everywhere, including Russia. So it will be in China (Works, volume 10, p. 290).

A new piece on mine on Chinese Democracy is now up on the Newcastle Herald website. The paper actually publishes material on socialism from time to time, which I’d like to think is an acknowledgement of the radical, working class traditions in the Hunter Valley.

The rush of Christmas is over, with three generations filling our household. So now I can relax … and study a little more Stalin.

Mao Zedong is usually credited with developing a peasant basis for socialist revolutions, thereby breaking with the proletarian emphasis of the Russian Revolution. It may come as a surprise to find that Stalin emphasises again and again the agrarian nature of the Chinese Revolution. In 1927, Stalin wrote:

What, then, is to be done at this moment? The agrarian revolution in China must be broadened and deepened. Mass workers’ and peasants’ organisations of every kind must be created and strengthened—from trade-union councils and strike committees to peasant associations and peasant revolutionary committees—with a view to converting them, as the revolutionary movement grows and achieves success, into organisational and political bases for the future Soviets of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ deputies (Works, volume 9, p. 242).

To be sure, Stalin did see the agrarian revolution as a phase that would be followed by the leadership of the proletariat in the establishment of soviets. Mao ensured that the agrarian basis would remain the core of the Chinese Revolution.

But did Stalin attempt to dictate the progress of the Chinese Revolution, insisting on ideological and practical conformity? Not so, it seems. He argues strongly against an ‘artificially transplanted “Moscow Sovietisation”’ (p. 233). And he castigates those who ‘sincerely believe that the revolution in China can be directed, so to speak, by telegraph, on the basis of the universally recognised general principles of the Comintern, disregarding the national peculiarities of China’s economy, political system, culture, manners and customs, and traditions (p. 338).

Mao with peasants 02

Mao with peasants 03

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