As my research has moved into the complexities of socialism in power, first in the Soviet Union and now in China, I have been struck by what might be called structural anti-communism in many Russian/Slavic Studies and China Studies programs. This is not a comment on individuals who often do excellent work, but on the structural formations of such places. My thoughts on this were initially triggered by Immanuel Wallsterstein’s observation that the disciplines of anthropology and ‘Orientalism’ arose as a way for Atlantic centres of power to understand and control large parts of the world over which they felt the entitlement to domination. However, after the Russian and Chinese revolutions, along with the huge anti-colonial movement supported (ideologically and materially) by socialist states, the game changed somewhat. Now government resources were channelled into Russian and Chinese studies. The reason was the need to understand the new ‘enemies’ who dared to challenge to world order. With this background, such programs and centres usually became structurally anti-communist, if not anti-Russian and anti-Chinese. Of course, it helped that fugitives from the Russian and Chinese revolutions (in the latter case from Hong Kong and Taiwan) often gained positions in such centres. But the key is in the structures of such places. Today we once again find that such centres have a new lease of life. Putin has become the number one enemy of the ‘West’ (often likened to Stalin, although Putin is anything but a communist). And China’s inexorable rise in economic and political power – led by the Communist Party – has led to a new batch of studies focusing on ‘authoritarianism’, ‘freedom of the press’, and the clampdown on ‘dissent’.
29 August, 2016
8 February, 2016
The book is now out of print, which is a shame, but Another Vietnam is a stunning collection of photographs from Vietcong photographers of their side of a long, long war they won. It makes you wonder what the situation would be like if the DPRK had won their revolutionary war against the USA. The images may be found here, along with descriptions (ht: cp).
1 February, 2016
16 December, 2015
Yesterday, a visiting comrade from the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) told us this popular joke from Bulgaria:
A woman wakes in the middle of the night and sits up in bed. She leaps out of bed and rushes to look in the medicine cabinet. She runs to the kitchen to open the refrigerator. She turns to the window, opens it and and looks out on the street. Breathing a sigh of relief, she returns to bed.
Wakened by her frantic activity, her husband asks, ‘what’s wrong?’
‘I had a dreadful nightmare’, she says. ‘I dreamed that we could once again afford to buy medicine, that the refrigerator was full of food and that the streets were safe and clean’.
‘How can that be a nightmare?’ Her husband asks.
‘I thought that communism was back’, she says, shaking her head.
7 August, 2015
As I read through History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), commonly known as the Short Course, I am increasingly intrigued by the genre of communist historiography. This was the first time a communist party was in power and had the power to write a history. Examples of course continue today, but this first effort is most intriguing. Earlier, Stalin had already begun commenting on efforts to write such histories, giving advice to the writing teams. For instance:
Without these explanations the struggle between factions and contradictions in the history of the Communist Party of the U.S.S.R., would appear to be merely the facts of an incomprehensible dispute and the Bolsheviks to be incorrigible and tireless quibblers and scrappers (Works, col. 14, p. 299).
As one would expect, these accounts are usually dismissed as ‘ideologically driven’, but that dismissal misses the unique shape the genre first took and has taken since.