A cancelled speech finds life online

Earlier this month Beijing’s Sanwei Shuwu bookstore [blog here] organized a lecture by Xin Ziling (辛子陵) called “The Political Reform Question.” The lecture, scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 16, was suddenly cancelled and replaced with another lecture on rule of law by Xiao Han (萧瀚), a professor at China University of Political Science and Law.

Sanwei did not specify the reason for the cancellation, but it should be noted that Xin Ziling was one of the 23 Party elders who penned an open letter on October 11 calling for freedom of speech in China.

Xin, a former official at the China National Defence University, is also the author of The Accomplishments and Sins of Mao Zedong (千秋功罪毛澤東), a book assessing the legacy of Mao.

Xin Jiling’s original lecture for Sanwei Shuwu has now been posted online, and the piece has drawn a flurry of interest today.

A portion of the lecture follows. In it, Xin attacks those who seek, as he sees it, to hijack the political reform debate with the outdated “theory of delimitation” — distinguishing between “proletarian” democracy and “bourgeois” democracy — which he calls a “protective amulet . . . for single-party dictatorship” handed down by Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.

We recommend that readers of Chinese review the comments beneath Xin’s essay at Chinavalue.net, including Xin’s own remarks. There is plenty of discussion there of yesterday’s People’s Daily piece as well, which is a good counterpoint to Xin’s arguments.

The Political Reform Question
October 16, 2010
By Xin Ziling (辛子陵)

Political reforms in China have dragged behind and scarcely budged, retarded by instinctual resistance from networks of influence and power. The protective amulet of their Leninism is the “theory of delimitation” (划界论). I’ve written an essay called, “Challenging One Paper and Two Magazines, Overturning the Theory of Delimitation,” which I posted online. It sets out to thoroughly overturn and shatter this “theory of delimitation.” [NOTE: “One paper and two magazines” (两报一刊) refers to the complete monopolization of the press by political power, particularly under Mao Zedong, but refers more directly in this case to recent pieces of conservatism on political reform appearing in prominent Communist Party newspapers.]

As soon as the winds of political reform start to blow, the writing hands of the mainstream media [NOTE: this means “Party media”] turn out to clearly delimit the issue. They ask whether we are surnamed Proletariat or surnamed Capitalist (姓无姓资), and they draw a clear line between bourgeois democracy and proletarian democracy. On September 4, the Guangming Daily came out with this piece called, “Two Democracies of Different Natures Must Not Be Confused,” [http://cmp.hku.hk/2010/09/06/7345/]. The same day, the Liberation Army Daily issued a piece written by Jiang Ganlin (蒋干麟), the head of the People’s Liberation Army’s Nanjing Political Studies Academy, which spoke of the need to delimit “four crucial boundaries.” Issue 18 of the journal Seeking Truth ran a piece under the headline, “The Institutional Superiority and Basic Characteristics of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” which also urged the need to “clearly delimit the differences between the democracy of socialism with Chinese characteristics and Western capitalist democracy.” The Party media [NOTE: The term used here is “one newspaper and two magazines.”] are lining up for battle, puffing up for opposition to political reform.

This theory of “delimitation” is a legacy passed down from Lenin, our patriarch, and the representative work in question is, “The Proletarian Revolution and the Traitor [Karl] Kautsky.” Lenin said at the time that “proletarian democracy is more democratic by a factor of 100 than any other form of democracy; Soviet political power is more democratic by a factor of 100 than even the most democratic bourgeois republic.”

[1]. There are two key positions behind this thinking. The first is class theory, that in the democratic system of the proletariat, the worker’s classes, the peasants the masses of ordinary people rule the country, and this has class superiority. Then there is [the superiority arising] from numbers theory, in that the worker’s classes, peasants and the ordinary masses account for more than 90 percent of the national population, and this means superiority of numbers. Lenin said: “The proletarian democratic system (of which Soviet political power is one form) exists for the vast majority of people, and for the expansion of democracy across the world to a level never before seen for the sake of exploited labor.”

[2]. Once these two positions were admitted, the opposition withered. For decades ever after, the Communist Parties of the various socialist nations of the world took this up as their protective amulet, confidently going ahead with their single-party dictatorships.

The people still subscribed to this idea was during the first generation in these socialist nations. Once political power had been violently seized, who would rule if the chiefs did not? With the second generation, a crisis of legitimacy emerged, and by the third generation we had the disintegration of the Soviet Union, dramatic change in Eastern Europe, and new paths of reform and opening in China and Vietnam.

This protective amulet that Lenin created for single-party dictatorship was issued in 1918, more than 90 years ago. There have been fundamental changes since to the proletarian democratic system and the bourgeois democratic system. These fundamental changes can be seen in the transposition of these two. The so-called “proletarian democratic system” has gradually transformed into a system representing a small capitalist elite holding political power (in China and North Korea, for example), and the “bourgeois democratic system” has grown beyond the scope of the wealthy to become a democratic system of the whole people (as in the United States and the nations of the European Union) in which the vote has become a powerful weapon by which ordinary people protect their rights and interests.

3 Comments to “A cancelled speech finds life online”

  1. King Tubby says:

    Kingsley. Many thanks. As you probably ascertained, I’m a lot more interested in the public mood and net comment in China, as I think it will be the determining factor. Given my characterisation, I’m not exactly brimming with confidence. Okay, it is multi-aspected, but that is probably because it is such a massive community with so many heterogeneous voices.

    Welcome your thoughts on the nature of present day civil society. It is certainly devoid of an all encompassing ideology other that $ acquisition. Cheers.

  2. Kingsley says:

    KT – I agree that this is not going to lead to drastic reforms overnight, but in terms of CCP theory/ideology this is an important step. (I realise the ideology may be irrelevant to the average person but it is still important in terms of intra-party debate.) As you say:

    “It is always us compared to them. Proletarian democratic system versus bourgeois democratic system, and this always allows proponents of CP status quo power monopoly to revalidate their own superior historical mission.”

    It seems to me that this is exactly the strategy of delimiting that Xin is trying to challenge and undermine.

    David – thanks for these pieces, they are much appreciated.

  3. King Tubby says:

    While well-intentioned, this is very old school criticism of the Leninist Party hands on the levers of history position. It makes one all-encompassing point, but it really takes the discussion of political reform or more limited intra-party reform pretty well nowhere.

    It is always us compared to them. Proletarian democratic system versus bourgeois democratic system, and this always allows proponents of CP status quo power monopoly to revalidate their own superior historical mission.

    A serious analytical critique would focus on the Party and how it has organised its committees and their relationship to the organs of government as outlined by Richard McGregor The Party. eg the diagrams on the front and back covers of this text.

    Anyway, to my mind, both (1) thorough going political reform or (2) intra-party reforms which would make government institutions more responible to an urban populace with rising expectations, are doomed as they are simply ***too big an ask*** in China today 2010. The public mood is atomised, brittleand mildy volatile, but for the most part, disinterested, easily distracted and intimidated.

    No Yeltsin type figure on the horizon to provide focus and mission. In short, vegetating in the teeth of non-decision. Thank you Hegel.

    China will need a major domestic drama such as bank failure, collapse of the r/e market to produce a crunch time. This could give rise to a grouplet of “democratic” opportunists in Beijing, but that is by no means guaranteed. Forget about Western ideas of historical determinisn and political progress

    David. Much appreciated translations as always. How about your views.

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