Marx, the Good Dissident

A former premiere's aide criticizes China's censorship policies as unconstitutional.
By Bao Tong
china-media-protest-305.gif Demonstrators call for press freedom in support of journalists from the Southern Weekend newspaper outside the company's office building in Guangzhou, Jan. 8, 2013.

For half a century, the re-education through labor system has been outside the law. It bypasses legitimate judicial channels, and uses specifically illegal means to deprive citizens of their personal freedom. It is definitely a heretical practice.

Now, under the new leadership that has determined that "the authority of the Constitution lies in its implementation," the new political and legal affairs committee has proposed the abolition of the re-education through labor system, and some hope is emerging for the rule of law.

The winds of corruption blow across officialdom, through the markets, and into the cultural sphere. The new leadership has elevated the fight against corruption to the level of life and death for Party and country. People have good reason to be optimistic that it will succeed.

However, they have cause for disappointment as the "main theme tune" continues to violate the Constitution.

The Southern Weekend incident proved that a number of legal illiterates who do not understand the Party and who are ignorant of Marxism are still, under the direction of a certain command center, illegally suppressing people's right to freedom of speech.

Following the theme

Mao Zedong started the idea of orchestrating public opinion to follow a unified theme.

Hu Feng was the first to point this out, and he was designated a counterrevolutionary by Mao, in violation of the Constitution and of the law.

There is good reason to call Mao a true disciple of lawlessness.

We needn't accuse him of being ignorant of the Party, although the charter of the Chinese Communist Party stipulates that "the Party must act within the Constitution and the law."

As for The Complete Works of Marx and Engels, back when they were denouncing Hu Feng, that was only available in German and Russian, and only extracts were available in Chinese, so we can't accuse him of ignorance of Marxism, either.

The dissident

Not so, for whoever it is who is trying to hijack the "main theme" and oppose the Constitution.

He dares, mantis-like, to attack the Constitution, which shows that he is probably at the highest levels of Party and government, but not that he is deliberately anti-law, anti-Party and anti-Marx.

It's also possible that he is just ignorant [of these things]. Such people are very common: and they are a lesson to others that should keep them on the right track. The fact is, these people have no idea of the right path and are legal illiterates.

They shout a lot about loyalty to the Party, but they are at a loss to understand the meaning of "the Party must act within the Constitution and the law."

They know nothing of Marx, but instead use wishful thinking to replace other people's independent Marxist thinking with their own fabrications.

Who's this?

"He has set up a system of top-down censorship."

"Every city has at least one censor."

"The censor is a trinity of plaintiff, counsel and judge."

"He seeks not just to punish me for my actions, but to punish me for my thoughts."

"The censor has the total trust of other officials, and no trust at all from the public."

"Any government order is the truth."

"The government's thoughts are the only way to be rational."

Who is this whining away? Is it Liu Xiaobo? Is it Ai Weiwei? Is it Southern Weekend? I want to ask those leaders in charge of censoring China's books and newspapers if they know.

Do the ideological secretaries know?

In China, those in charge of orchestrating the main theme are the central propaganda department of Chinese Communist Party.

China's propaganda departments extend from central government to the provinces to the city and county levels.

They enjoy the same powers and functions as the Party committees. They are led by the secretaries for ideology, who number not less than 3,000.

I want to ask these 3,000 ideological secretaries: Who is this dissident [quoted above], who advocates that the only fundamental approach to fixing the censorship system is to abolish censorship?


He is none other than Marx himself.

All of the above quotations are taken from the first volume of the Chinese text of The Complete Works of Marx and Engels.

When the autocratic Prussian government promulgated its new censorship orders on Dec. 24, 1841, Marx wrote the above comments between January and February of 1842.

It was in the struggle against the censorship order that Marx embarked on a lifelong career of political and theoretical struggle.

Putting the question

Maybe not all 3,000 of them need to take this test. Maybe only one person should; the person on the seven-man Politburo standing committee who has been given the task of leading the central propaganda department will do.

He has been following Marx his whole life, so he must be an expert.

He could give only two possible answers to this question.

Either he will know very well that Marx was opposed to censorship, and he will oppose Marx, or he will reveal himself to be a complete ignoramus where Marx is concerned.

Can he please tell us which of the two it is?

Constitutional behavior

When our new General Secretary [president-in-waiting Xi Jinping] said that the authority of the Constitution lies in its implementation, he offered a possible solution for all of the systems that have been engaged in illegal and unconstitutional behavior: to change their ways.

The political and legal affairs committee has made some progress [with its suggested reforms to the re-education through labor system].

However, the orchestrators of the main theme continue with their censorship of books and publications, and also with their rhetoric of suppression and with their unconstitutional behavior.

It is unthinkable that those who persist in unconstitutional behavior could get to such heights without special patronage behind the scenes. But he has had more failures than successes, so who still wants to be bound to his fate?

The good dissident

Marx can't help him. Marx, in his fight to set up a commonwealth of free people, never abandoned the struggle for freedom of thought, speech, and of the press.

When Mao the great autocrat began to imagine that one person's mind and mouth could stand in for the minds and mouths of more than a billion Chinese people, he set in motion the tragedy of the Chinese nation.

Nowadays, it's fashionable to talk about the ruin of Party and state as a huge disaster for our people.

But it's not necessarily so. The pain suffered by our people has been far greater than the pain of such a "ruin."

Just take a look at the dead brains, the dead mouths, the dead intellects, the dead speech [we suffer today], and see how many countless times worse it is than the prospect of the "ruin of Party and state."

It is imperative that we urgently implement the Constitution, and deprive ourselves of any more excuses to suppress the freedom of thought and the freedom of speech.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.

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