So it seems as though the ‘hybrid Color Revolution-Arab Spring’ template is now at work in Hong Kong. No surprises there. Serbia, Ukraine, Venezuela, Egypt, and so on – they have seen variations on the template, in which Washington outsources its interference and attempted ‘regime change’ to NGOs.

As the People’s Daily astutely points out:

According to media reports, Louisa Greve, a director of the National Endowment for Democracy of the US (NED), was already meeting with the key people from “Occupy Central” several months ago, to talk about the movement. Louisa Greve is the vice-president of NED who is responsible for its Asia, Middle East and North Africa programs. For many years, her name has frequently appeared on reports about “Tibetan independence”, “eastern Turkistan”, “democracy movement” and other forces destabilizing Chinese affairs and interfering with the Chinese government. She also hosted or participated in conferences about the “Arab spring” and the “Color Revolutions” of other regions.

It is hardly likely that the US will admit to manipulating the “Occupy Central” movement, just as it will not admit to manipulating other anti-China forces … The US purports to be promoting the “universal values” of “democracy”, “freedom” and “human rights”, but in reality the US is simply defending its own strategic interests and undermining governments it considers to be “insubordinate”. In US logic, a”democratic” country is one that conducts its affairs in line with American interests.

The results of America’s “Color Revolutions” have hardly been a success. The “Arab spring” turned to be an “Arab winter” and Ukraine’s “street politics” have resulted in secession and conflict. There is little evidence of any real democracy in these countries, but the US turns a blind eye.

I must admit, I am pretty much in agreement with that. And just to make matters clear:

The US may enjoy the sweet taste of interfering in other countries’ internal affairs, but on the issue of Hong Kong it stands little chance of overcoming the determination of the Chinese government to maintain stability and prosperity.

One of the tricks of developing new positions within a tradition is to assert your fidelity to the tradition while building a new argument out of the old. In the struggle between Trotsky and Stalin, the tradition was named ‘Leninism’, and each of course claimed to be the faithful interpreter of that tradition. On the matter of revolution, Trotsky argued that only a world-wide socialist revolution would secure socialism. And he could quote Lenin in support of that position. The reality was clearly otherwise, so Stalin argued – again interpreting Lenin – for the viability of socialism in one country. But what did that mean? Battening down the hatches and looking inward?

No, it actually drew on the image of a ‘light to the nations’ from Isaiah 49.

Soviet Russia was to be ‘living beacon illuminating the path to socialism’, ‘a torch which lights the path to liberation from the yoke of the oppressors for all the peoples of the world’. Or, to borrow a New Testament image, it was to be ‘light from the East’ (Works Vols 4: 62, 408, 181-86). Practically, that meant support for the many anti-colonial struggles throughout the world, a position Stalin first developed as a consequence of the ‘national question’ (or better ethnic diversity) in the USSR.

Socialism in one country 01

Socialism in one country 02a

It was of course the constitution of the USSR. The constitution of 1924 contains this crucial declaration, indicating that one of the key factors involved ethnic diversity (or what it likes to call the ‘national question’):

The will of the peoples of the Soviet republics, who recently assembled at their Congresses of Soviets and unanimously resolved to form a “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,” is a reliable guarantee that this Union is a voluntary association of peoples enjoying equal rights, that each republic is guaranteed the right of freely seceding from the Union, that admission to the Union is open to all Socialist Soviet Republics, whether now existing or hereafter to arise, that the new union state will prove to be a worthy crown to the foundation for the peaceful co-existence and fraternal co-operation of the peoples that was laid in October 1917, and that i t will serve as a sure bulwark against world capitalism and as a new and decisive step towards the union of the working people of all countries into a World Socialist Soviet Republic (Stalin, Works 5, p. 404).

A constitution is always a work in progress, so the 1936 version (sponsored by Stalin) extended affirmative action to women, religion, education and so on:

Article 122. Women in the U.S.S.R. are accorded equal rights with men in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life. The possibility of exercising these rights is ensured to women by granting them an equal right with men to work, payment for work, rest and leisure, social insurance and education, and by state protection of the interests of mother and child, prematernity and maternity leave with full pay, and the provision of a wide network of maternity homes, nurseries and kindergartens.

Article 123. Equality of rights of citizens of the U.S.S.R., irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life, is an indefeasible law. Any direct or indirect restriction of the rights of, or, conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect privileges for, citizens on account of their race or nationality, as well as any advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness or hatred and contempt, is punishable by law.

Article 124. In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the U.S.S.R. is separated from the state, and the school from the church. Freedom of religious worship and freedom of anti-religious propaganda is recognized for all citizens.

Incidentally, article 124, which Stalin included in the face of stiff opposition, eventually led to the rapprochement between Stalin and the church during and after the Second World War. The church petitioned for churches to be re-opened, religious personnel to be admitted to jobs, and religious candidates ran in the 1937 legislative elections.

By 1977, the revised constitution summed up the affirmative action position as follows:

Article 34. Citizens of the USSR are equal before the law, without distinction of origin, social or property status, race or nationality, sex, education, language, attitude to religion, type and nature of occupation, domicile, or other status.

The equal rights of citizens of the USSR are guaranteed in all fields of economic, political, social, and cultural life.

Article 35. Women and men have equal rights in the USSR.

Exercise of these rights is ensured by according women equal access with men to education and vocational and professional training, equal opportunities in employment, remuneration, and promotion, and in social and political, and cultural activity, and by special labour and health protection measures for women; by providing conditions enabling mothers to work; by legal protection, and material and moral support for mothers and children, including paid leaves and other benefits for expectant mothers and mothers, and gradual reduction of working time for mothers with small children.

Article 36. Citizens of the USSR of different races and nationalities have equal rights.

Exercise of these rights is ensured by a policy of all-round development and drawing together of all the nations and nationalities of the USSR, by educating citizens in the spirit of Soviet patriotism and socialist internationalism, and by the possibility to use their native language and the languages of other peoples in the USSR.

Any direct or indirect limitation of the rights of citizens or establishment of direct or indirect privileges on grounds of race or nationality, and any advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness, hostility, or contempt, are punishable by law.

Needless to say, constitutions express certain ideals that are not are always practised in reality, but in its initial articulation it was the first affirmative action constitution in the world.

Go to any Hunanese restaurant, or any Chinese restaurant in a foreign country, and you are likely to find ‘Chairman Mao’s Braised Pork’, or something with a similar name. It is well known that he loved to eat a dish of braised pork belly and soy sauce. Pork belly is, of course, one of the fattiest parts of the pig. Like most Hunanese, he believed that it boosted his brainpower, if not his physical capabilities. He insisted that he eat it as often as he could, even during his years in Beijing and against the strenuous advice of his physicians. Earlier, during the long civil war that led up to the revolution, he made sure he ate this dish before he went into combat. He did the same when he was about to enter political combat. He believed that he never lost a battle after a meal of braised pork.

Mao's dish

RecentlyI completed the Great North Walk, through the bush and mountains from Newcastle to Sydney. Apart from the sheer pleasure of an empty mind, at times I thought that Captain Obvious had been in these parts. Take this helpful sign:

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  Not long before, I had been clambering through this:

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And up this:

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Then again, the question of wheelchairs became irrelevant at a certain point as I walked through a firing range:

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The more I read and hear about it, the more I am puzzled: the new secularist fad in religion studies and biblical criticism. Studies in religion has been engaged in a turf war for some time, or, to shift the metaphor, in teenage rebellion against its parent, theology. Some biblical critics have been scurrying around making similar noises, forgetting that biblical criticism broke with theology more than 150 years ago. This approach has the same form as other disciplines that saw the need to hive off from theology some time ago: denigrate the parent and say loudly and frequently that theology is not even a scholarly pursuit. So also with studies in religion and secularist biblical criticism. But a few items are now added to the list, the most curious one being the hypothesis that religion is a ‘construct’ and that therefore it doesn’t exist sui generis (the puffy and pompous McCutcheon likes this one). Instead, we should study how it is constructed. But since when is a construct unreal? A similar silly suggestion is made concerning the Bible.

However, I am interested in another part of this argument: theology or the Bible or religion isn’t going to save the world, or even make things a little better. A few points need to be made here. First, it is an old move, which took place in other disciplines in the earlier part of the twentieth century: remove any political agenda from a discipline, call it ‘scientific’, and set about explaining the world as it is (that is, the world viewed from the Atlantic). Second, it is deeply conservative, for it supports the status quo with such a move. Third, it is a very bourgeois project, which Marx, Engels and Lenin derided: targetting religion is a diversion from real socio-economic problems. Finally, and for me most importantly, it seeks to negate the religious revolutionary tradition that Kautsky first mapped out. In the end, the problem is not religion, or indeed theology and the Bible, but rather the radical political possibilities they may have.

Ever the biblical student, Stalin writes to comrades in Czechoslovakia regarding Matthew 25:13:

Advantage must be taken of the lull to strengthen the Party, to Bolshevise it and make it “always ready” for all possible “complications”; for “ye know neither the day nor the hour” wherein “the bridegroom cometh” to open the road for a new revolutionary upsurge. (Works, vol. 7, p. 68)

Stalin reading 02