Workers Vanguard No. 981
27 May 2011
Hong Kong: Fake Trotskyists Hail Imperialist Running Dog Liu Xiaobo
It always seems that the more flagrant and bloody the depredations that the imperialists are engaged in, the louder they beat the drums over “human rights” wherever capitalism has been overthrown. In this vein, U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton lashed out during high-level talks with Chinese representatives in Washington a few weeks ago. Referring to a renewed crackdown on dissidents, Clinton blustered that China’s leaders are “trying to stop history, which is a fool’s errand.” Liberal editorial writers and columnists have done their assigned part by bashing China over “human rights.” This at a time when the U.S. ruling class is carrying out murderous occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and bombing Libya, and the use of torture in the “war on terror” evokes only mild debate about just how effective it is.
A major focus of the recent clamor over “human rights” in China has been the imprisoned anti-Communist intellectual Liu Xiaobo. Especially after Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, the Western bourgeois media glorified him as a stalwart champion of “democracy” and “human rights.” A noteworthy exception was a piece in the liberal London Guardian (15 December 2010), which exposed him as a rabid supporter of U.S. imperialist militarism, past and present. Under the headline “Do Supporters of Nobel Winner Liu Xiaobo Really Know What He Stands For?” Barry Sautman and Yan Hairong commented:
“If Liu’s politics were well-known, most people would not favour him for a prize, because he is a champion of war, not peace. He has endorsed the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and he applauded the Vietnam and Korean wars retrospectively in a 2001 essay. All these conflicts have entailed massive violations of human rights. Yet in his article ‘Lessons from the Cold War,’ Liu argues that ‘The free world led by the US fought almost all regimes that trampled on human rights.... The major wars that the US became involved in are all ethically defensible.’ During the 2004 US presidential election, Liu warmly praised George Bush for his war effort against Iraq and condemned Democratic party candidate John Kerry for not sufficiently supporting the US’s wars.”
It is practically a requirement for those awarded the Nobel Peace Prize that they be imperialist war criminals (e.g., Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama) or toadies of the imperialists (e.g., the Dalai Lama).
Joining the imperialists in praising Liu are the pseudo-Trotskyists who publish October Review out of capitalist Hong Kong, the one part of the People’s Republic of China (besides the tiny enclave of Macao) where the CCP does not exercise a monopoly of political organization. Describing this vocal apologist for American imperialist militarism as someone who “fought for democracy through peaceful means,” October Review (31 December 2010) ran an article, headlined “Liu Xiaobo Must Be Released Now! Human Rights Must Be Restored in China!” that was suffused with the anti-Communist code words “human rights” and (classless) “democracy.” “Liu being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is also a criticism of Chinese authorities,” we are informed, “hence it can be an encouragement for the development of the democratic movement in China.” With the same language, the Washington Post (30 January 2009)—a major mouthpiece for American imperialism—hailed Liu’s Charter 08 movement as China’s “new democracy movement.”
“Human Rights” Imperialism Against China
Liu emerged as Washington’s most favored Chinese anti-Communist “dissident” a little over two years ago as the primary author of the Charter 08 manifesto which, as we wrote at the time, was “an explicit program for capitalist counterrevolution in the Chinese deformed workers state, wrapped in the envelope of ‘democracy’” (WV No. 933, 27 March 2009). Charter 08 demanded the privatization of state-owned enterprises—the collectivized core of the Chinese economy—as well as agricultural land. This was a program to reverse the social gains of the 1949 Revolution, which, if realized, would plunge China back into imperialist subjugation and untrammeled exploitation. Not surprisingly, the organizations Liu has been involved in have been funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, a notorious CIA front.
While we recognized that Charter 08 represented a counterrevolutionary program, we did not support the repression of its initiators and signers by the Stalinist bureaucracy, which defends its privileged position through fierce, all-sided political repression. Liu and the other right-wing intellectuals were not and are not presently leading a movement threatening the existence of the Chinese workers state, as was the case, for example, with Solidarność in Poland in 1981. As revolutionary Marxists (Trotskyists), we called to “smash Solidarność counterrevolution” and fought to win Polish workers to a program of defense of the Polish and Soviet workers states against capitalist counterrevolution and for proletarian political revolution to oust the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracies.
In China today, that program is essential to politically defeat the Charter 08 movement and its apologists on the left, such as October Review. Charter 08 retrospectively supported the imperialist-backed Guomindang (Nationalist Party) regime of Chiang Kai-shek against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the civil war of the late 1940s. The 1949 Chinese Revolution was a progressive social revolution of world-historic significance. Hundreds of millions of peasants rose up and seized the land on which their forebears had been exploited from time immemorial. The creation of a centrally planned, collectivized economy laid the basis for enormous social progress.
However, the revolution was deformed from its inception under the rule of Mao Zedong’s CCP regime, a nationalist bureaucratic caste resting atop the workers state. Unlike the Russian October Revolution of 1917, which was carried out by a class-conscious proletariat guided by the Bolshevik internationalism of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, the Chinese Revolution was the result of peasant-guerrilla war led by Mao’s Stalinist-nationalist forces. Patterned after the Stalinist bureaucracy that had usurped power in the USSR, Mao and his successors, including today’s Hu Jintao regime, have maintained the profoundly anti-Marxist notion that socialism—a classless, egalitarian society based on material abundance—could be built in a single country. In practice, “socialism in one country” has meant accommodation to world imperialism and opposition to the perspective of international workers revolution, which is essential for the advance to socialism.
At some point, the explosive social tensions within China will shatter the political structure of the ruling bureaucratic caste. And when that happens, the fate of the most populous country in the world will be starkly posed: proletarian political revolution to establish a government based on elected workers and peasants councils and open the road to socialism, or capitalist enslavement and imperialist subjugation.
In their own way, China’s Stalinist rulers sense that they are sitting atop a social volcano. This is clearly evident in their response to the mass protests that toppled Egyptian despot Hosni Mubarak. The state-directed television news showed pictures of protests from afar in which not a single demonstrator was visible. Instead they focused on broken windows at banks, trucks in flames and looting, accompanied by commentary about how the government was striving to restore order. In the wake of the political turbulence in North Africa, there has been increased suppression of dissent (arrests and detentions of activists, artists and lawyers as well as more Internet censorship).
For their part, elements in American ruling circles evidently saw an opportunity to encourage some Chinese intellectuals and other members of the educated (and materially privileged) petty bourgeoisie to take to the streets in the name of “democracy.” This was labeled “the Jasmine revolution.” Anti-Communist émigrés in the U.S., grouped around the Democratic Party of China, took to their computer keyboards and issued calls in cyberspace for actions in Beijing, Shanghai and other Chinese cities. A headline in the New York Times (29 April) captured it: “Trying to Stir Up a Popular Protest in China, From a Bedroom in Manhattan.” The “Jasmine revolution” turned out to be a bust. Only a handful heeded the call, including the U.S. ambassador, who just “happened to be passing by” one of the announced locations at the time. The very places chosen for these “democracy” protests spoke to their upper-class character: Starbucks, McDonald’s and Wangfujing, a fancy shopping district in Beijing patronized by foreign tourists and China’s newly rich.
Fake Trotskyists Push “Democratic” Counterrevolution
Someone might argue that would-be participants in the “Jasmine revolution” were cowed by effective police-state repression. However, this same period saw a three-day strike and angry protests in Shanghai by truckers, most of whom own their own rigs, directed at soaring prices for gasoline and also high government fees. There is no lack of seething discontent among large sections of the Chinese populace—workers in both state-owned and private enterprises, peasant leaseholders and also members of the urban petty bourgeoisie. The question is what political direction will opposition to the ruling Stalinist bureaucracy take. A decisive factor will be the character and aims of the leadership of such opposition.
When the political situation in China opens up, revolutionary Marxists will confront tendencies that advocate classless “democracy” while also claiming to stand for the interests of the working class and even for socialism. These will include groups that falsely claim the mantle of Trotskyism, such as October Review. This outfit is aligned internationally with the United Secretariat (USec), which has a long history of serving “bourgeois-democratic” counterrevolution by prostituting Trotsky’s revolutionary opposition to Stalinism. During the last phase of the Cold War in the 1980s-early ’90s, the USec, led by the late Ernest Mandel, supported every imperialist-backed, anti-Communist force in the Soviet sphere, from Solidarność in Poland to the “democrats” around Boris Yeltsin in Russia. The October Review crowd is, if anything, even more strident in expressing anti-Communist hostility toward China than were the Mandelites toward the Soviet Union. But this is simply a matter of degree.
Genuine Trotskyism means carrying forward the revolutionary proletarian-internationalist banner of the October Revolution of 1917. As we concluded our article on Charter 08:
“A proletarian political revolution producing a China of worker and peasant councils would be a beacon for the oppressed working masses of Asia and the entire world, dealing a deathblow to the bourgeoisie’s ‘death of communism’ propaganda, lifting up the downtrodden masses of the former Soviet Union and East Europe and inspiring the workers in the imperialist heartlands. This, ultimately, is the only perspective that can defeat the siren call of ‘democracy’ pushed by imperialist-backed outfits as well as fake ‘socialists’ who are enemies of the gains of the Chinese Revolution.”