China


I am finally working through the many photographs from the ‘red tour’ filming from last November (for the MOOC), and came across these from Ruijin, where the first soviet was established in the early 1930s. This is also where the absolutely crucial Ruijin ethos was developed: make sure that people have adequate food, clothing and shelter, give them security and they will become revolutionaries.

These photos were taken in Ruijin, Jiangxi province. Clearly, the Marxist tradition follows through:

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Earlier, I made a few comments on criticism in China, but here is the video shot for the upcoming MOOC on Chinese Marxism. By the way, make sure you circulate news of the MOOC and encourage people to enrol. It begins on 1 March. It’s free!

The course itself begins on 1 March, but enrolments have now opened. The introduction page provides the final version of the invitation video, course syllabus and some other details.

What an amazing week.

Between Tuesday and Friday, 17 and 20 January, the world shifted. On Tuesday, Xi Jinping addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, while on Friday Donald Trump became president of the United States.

Their two speeches said it all: in one, putting people first, focusing on economic wellbeing for all, stressing the need for international cooperation, dealing with major problems collectively, and the need for a recalibration of global governance; in the other, putting the USA first, focusing on economic wellbeing only for the USA (and stuff the rest), stressing the need for twisting arms so that the USA comes out on top, dealing only with US problems, and the desperate and vain assertion of US global control.

To be sure, many commentators have interpreted Xi Jinping’s speech as a defence of ‘free trade’ and ‘globalisation’. But if you read closely, you will pick up the Marxist emphases on economic wellbeing (which is a core element in a Chinese Marxist approach to human rights), economic inequality as a source of unrest, unleashing the forces of production, the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and the need always to focus on what benefits the common people.

In some respects, the week just past was a significant moment in the shift of global power that began 10 years ago with the Atlantic financial crisis. Comrades in China point out that it should be seen as an outcome of almost four decades of the reform and opening up policy in China.

And all this takes place as Xi Jinping is preparing China for the shift to the second stage of socialism.

 

Occasionally I come across the comment that the greatest offence of my Stalin project is that I assume that Stalin could actually think. It may be surprising to some, but many deny him the ability to think, let alone think dialectically. Was he not the one who was a novice at theory, mocked by his comrades for his faltering efforts? Was he not a cunning political operator at best, a woeful destroyer of Marxist theory at worst? Patient and careful attention to his works suggests otherwise. It is a shame so few people actually his written materials, dismissing them as hypocrisy or sophism.

And yes, the Stalin book is almost complete after too many delays. Final outline soon.

This course, ‘From Mao to Now’, will be kicking off some time in the new year. All the filming, on site in China and in the studio in Newcastle, has been completed, so now it is up the editing and production people. Here is an early version of the introductory trailer.

While doing the final (studio) filming for the MOOC on Chinese Marxism, we got talking about the role of criticism in relation to socialist democracy. The widespread and mistaken international image is that criticism is ruthlessly censored in China.

This is far from the case. In fact, three points are worth noting:

  1. The long socialist tradition of criticism and self-criticism, which the Chinese both inherit and to which they add their own cultural approach. As my Chinese friends tell me, ‘we Chinese are very good at self-criticism’.
  2. The basic difference between constructive and destructive criticism. The Chinese government encourages the former, with constant projects and research focusing on problems and how they might be solved. Take Xinjiang, for instance, where many problems may be found. The efforts to identify the problems and proposed solutions are myriad. But as long as they are constructive. Suggest a destructive solution, such as the secession of Xinjiang as a country, and that will be seen as destructive.
  3. An even more basic distinction is between disdain and friendship. The Chinese are very good at picking up the difference. A foreigner does not have to say anything explicit, but Chinese people will pick up very quickly if aforesaid foreigner looks down on and disrespects China, and they will react accordingly. But if people get the message that you are a friend, the whole situation changes, people open up, and the possibilities for constructive engagement are far, far greater.

With these thoughts in mind, I filmed a segment of the MOOC on the role of criticism in Chinese socialist democracy.

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