theology


This one has been on the way for some time. Last week the new Ordinance on Religious Affairs was published, which is to take effect on 1 February 2018. To publicise the new rules, we find Yu Zhengsheng, a senior political advisor, making the following points:

Conflicts and disputes involving ethnic and religious factors should be dealt with in accordance with the law concerned to safeguard social harmony and stability.

We must resolutely resist overseas infiltration via religious means and prevent missionary activities in educational institutions.

Apart from promoting traditional Chinese culture and national unity, Yu also stressed that “socialist core values should guide and educate religious figures and their followers.” I love that one.

But what is the background to these new ordinances? The Institute for World Religion Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has been engaged in research for some time (I have played a modest part in the process). So we find Liu Guopeng, from the institute, observing that Protestant groups have been growing and – due to conservative tendencies among some – have been condemning Buddhism, Taoism and Islam. And external influences have radicalised some elements among the Xinjiang Uyghur and Ningxia Hui nationalities.

The key in these cases is that all religions should stick to independence and self-governance and not be controlled by any foreign entity – whether Christian, Muslim or indeed Buddhist. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), set up with the work of the Chinese Christian communist, Yu Yaozong, and Zhou Enlai, is perhaps the best example of this, which is one of the largest Protestant organisations in the world.

 

 

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I am completely out of things for a while, cycling more than 1,000 km across Germany on the Mittelland Route (d4). But I did notice this intriguing Chinese take on what is happening in the United States, with statues being torn down, violent skirmishes, etc. The People’s Daily notes that more and more people in China are seeing what is evolving as a ‘Cultural Revolution‘, understanding the term as a wave of anger, violence and chaos.

Way back in 1945, Stalin was told of the first nuclear test in the USA. He was sceptical. Why? You may have all the firepower in the world, he pointed out, but it is the quality of ground troops that makes all the difference. Stalin’s insights are still very relevant. The USA loves firing missiles and dropping bombs – more bombs were dropped in North Korea in the early 1950s than in the whole of the second world war. But as soon as ground troops go in, they are clearly inferior. The recent history of failures reveals this all too clearly: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya … One wonders how long the US war machine can keep on failing.

And – as a footnote – I am afraid I was wrong about Trump on the international scene. He is no different from the Bushes, Clinton and Obama, acting like drunken cowboys, trying to provoke one country after another.

With increasing news that US border bureaucrats are asking travellers to hand over electronic devices and provide access (passwords etc.), so they can check your social media, email and so on, it is time either to give the USA a miss (there are better places to visit) or to leave all devices at home. A simple ‘dumb’ or ‘burner’ phone, with a couple of numbers on it may be all that you want to bring with you. Then again, you may be denied entry with these as well, since they may be a signal you are trying to hide something.

In all this, the one I like best is that one may be subject to ‘ideological’ questioning upon arrival at the border.

By and large the Social-Democratic parties (and I include here the ‘socialist’ parties) in Europe support the EU. The reasons vary, but the underlying justification is that the EU is in part a social-democratic project. It seeks to encourage liberal economic policies, while trying to ameliorate some its worse effects – largely to keep the system running.

This position has certain implications in relation to Eastern Europe and ‘former’ communist countries.

  1. A wholesale denial that the economic situation in many Eastern European countries has become worse since 1989 rather than better. This entails a denial of systematic deindustrialisation and the resultant large-scale unemployment.
  2. A perverse suggestion that the EU’s free market means the free movement of manufactured products but not the commodity of labour power. That is, you call sell products on the capitalist market of the EU, but workers should not move to other countries. Why perverse? First, the movement of labour power is one of the commodities in a capitalist market. Second, one of the main aims of the EU is to drive down the cost of labour in Western European countries by employing lower-paid workers from Eastern Europe. This is to counter the law of the falling rate of profit.
  3. So you find social-democratic parties targeting ‘foreign’ workers so as to secure the wavering votes of workers in their ‘own’ countries.
  4. But why would workers from Eastern Europe move elsewhere for jobs? The only position remaining is the weak suggestion that ‘everyone seeks a better life’. Implicit in this suggestion is the agreement that matters have become worse in Eastern Europe since 1989.
  5. And you must – if you are of this persuasion – blame Putin, Trump and the ‘stupid’ Brexit voters in the UK for Europe’s current ills.

As preparation for the socialism in power project, I am working my way systematically through Losurdo. At the moment I am reading through War and Revolution, which offers a sustained riposte to the revisionist tendency (Nolte, Furet et al) that seeks to blame all of the twentieth century’s ills on the revolutionary tradition, from the Jacobins to the Bolsheviks.

Instead, as Losurdo points out, Hitler was a great admirer of the British Empire and sought to emulate it (with Ireland as the prime instance of how to treat resistance forces and ‘degenerate’ populations). Henry Ford’s The International Jew (a compilation from the anti-Semitic paper he funded, the Dearborn Independent) profoundly influenced Himmler. And the Tsarist pogroms and those of the ‘white’ forces during the civil war, in which hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed, was supported by British forces, which air-dropped a massive amount of anti-Semitic literature and supported the ‘whites’ in their effort to rid Russia of the Jewish conspiracy known as Bolshevism. As Lorsurdo points out, ‘This is a chapter of history that seems to be a direct prelude to the Nazi genocide’.

Oh wow, Newcastle had its hottest day on record today – 45 degrees this afternoon. And this is a relatively cool place, close by the ocean with its sea breeze. Up the valley, they hit 47 degrees. Out west, Ivanhoe had 47.6 degrees. So we have what the Rural Fire Service are calling unprecedented conditions for bushfires. Today we had a ‘catastrophic’ warning over large parts of the state. Never before at this level. And tomorrow the winds come, ready to whip up the bushfires already under way.

fire warnings

Nothing wrong with the climate …

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