'In The Ongoing Class Struggle, Just Who is Oppressing Whom?'

A commentary by Bao Tong
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A Chinese propaganda poster from the 1950s.
A Chinese propaganda poster from the 1950s.
The Picture Desk

The current head of the China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) is surnamed Wang.

He recently published an article in the party mouthpiece, in which he suggests that "class struggle in China hasn't died out," and extends this to suggest we revisit the people's democratic dictatorship.

Some people have written that it is mistaken to suggest we can revisit class struggle. But not necessarily.

Naturally, Wang will have his own theoretical background and access to his own sources of information.

In fact, the provenance of Wang's article shines clear in every word. It has been copied entirely from the "Sacred Edict" [a set of moral and civic obligations published by the Kangxi Emperor in 1670].

You can refute such a text if you want to, but that will lead to your certain death or branding as a traitor, because you will have transgressed the scientific principles of Mao Zedong that must be held aloft down through the generations, set yourself in opposition to the "Four Principles" propounded by Deng Xiaoping [upholding Communist Party rule], and joined the ranks of what were known in the past as counterrevolutionaries, and what are known today as "hostile forces."

So, we see where Wang is coming from. As long as the slogans of socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat continue to be held aloft, he will remain a tumbler doll in invincible territory.

Personally, I think that social class does have an objective existence.

The collaboration, threats and mutual assistance, not to mention the contracts and consultations, the power struggles and the checks and balances that go on between the social classes are an incontrovertible part of our society. Their effect on our history and on the realities of our lives cannot easily be obliterated.

That's why a claim that class struggle continues to rage is the same as saying that negotiations between social classes, or cooperation between socioeconomic groups, continue apace. There's really not much contradiction between these statements; they inhabit the same universe.

‘Deep subtext’

Actually, there is a deep subtext behind this serious attempt to revisit the people's democratic dictatorship (and the dictatorship of the proletariat), and we shouldn't skim over it without noticing.

Perhaps you imagine that penning articles with angry determination is simply part of the bread and butter of such a learned president, or perhaps you think that this article is full of tedious ravings and balderdash.
But you'd be wrong. Even if this article can't claim to be a direct message from the sacred oracle, it should at least be regarded as a succinct summary of its message or a testing of the waters.

At the very least, it requires a response. President Wang is at pains to list the tools and weapons of the people's democratic dictatorship. He lists them specifically in his article as "the armed forces, the prisons, the courts and the police."

But who is using them against whom exactly?

Is he calling for ordinary citizens to use them against an oppressor, or are they to be used by the political elite as a way of controlling the people?

If it's the former, then it's hardly surprising that the political and financial elites are trying to shoot him down. The very thought!

If it's the latter, then this is to be a dictatorship implemented by the armed forces, the prisons, the courts and the police, all armed to the teeth, against unarmed citizens. Equally unthinkable!

If president Wang hadn't written this article, people might still be muddling along in confusion about the whole thing. Now that he has published this incredible piece of bombast, it has left ordinary people of my generation scratching their heads at the mystery of it all.

Perhaps the fact that it has left us baffled is the whole reason why the people's democratic dictatorship must now be repeated!

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

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





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