At last! A naked neighbour. For years I have been staggering around naked, first thing in the morning. I look for clothes in the sunroom, ponder the universe while looking over the harbour, have breakfast, make bread – all stark naked and with the curtains fully open. Thus far, our neighbours have kept their curtains tightly shut – all day.

Until now. One of our neighbours has decided that the best way to enjoy the clear air and sunshine of these parts to do the same thing: keep the windows clear and the body unencumbered. Next time I will wave to her, wearing nothing but a big smile.

It seems as though many people do not realise Stalin wrote anything. As Christina tells me, they express surprise when she tells them I am reading through all of his written work – not that I should be reading it, but that he wrote at all. Ah well, the Cold War has much to answer for.

In the midst of his theoretically important (and long) address to the fourteenth conference in 1925, he has this great vignette on vodka and building socialism with white gloves. The context is the need to avoid being indebted and thereby dependent on Western Europe and North America:

A word or two, by the way, about one of the sources of reserves—vodka. There are people who think that it is possible to build socialism in white gloves. That is a very gross mistake, comrades. Since we are not receiving loans, since we are poor in capital, and since, furthermore, we cannot go into bondage to the West-European capitalists, not being able to accept the enslaving terms that they offer us and which we have rejected, only one alternative remains—to seek sources in other spheres. After all, that is better than bondage. Here we have to choose between bondage and vodka, and those people who think that it is possible to build socialism in white gloves are grievously mistaken. (Works volume 7, p. 349).

Even in Georgia today, you can buy a bottle of Stalin vodka:

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Stalin vodka 01

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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