Speech at the 6th World Socialism Forum in Beijing
Scholars and comrades, it is an honour to be here today. More, now than ever it is vital for Chinese and international comrades to meet and find ways to cooperate in the international struggle of the working class.
It is fitting that the topic of our conference today is cultural hegemony and colour revolutions, two methods by which capital attempts to not only crush opposition but ensure that it never occurs again.
Colour Revolutions are the refinement of earlier forms of anti-popular strategies. They focus on the need for an authentic “grass-roots” appearance and the holding up to ridicule of the government and leading figures, regardless of whether they were elected or not. Students and other upwardly mobile social groups are targeted for the simplistic, sloganised messages concerning “democracy” and “freedom”. The use of these terms is based on bland, class context-free assumptions that are never questioned in the documentaries sponsored by the Ford Foundation, the essays receiving prizes from the National Endowment for Democracy, the handbooks published by the Albert Einstein Foundation or interviews with the founders of the Otpor organisation in Belgrade.
Decades of experience have provided us with ample examples of how imperialism uses counter-revolution and ideological warfare. Comrades here today have mentioned examples and Bob Briton’s paper which is part of the conference proceedings document goes into more detail.
Instead of listing the crimes that imperialism has committed, I want to pose a question on behalf of Bob and I sincerely hope that comrades will find me later to discuss it. The question is: “Why are these methods so effective?”. Especially in the case of socialist or former socialist countries. Why would such a facile approach to the questions of “democracy” and “freedom” be successful? Why does an education grounded in the world outlook of socialism fail to provide effective immunity from the manipulative propaganda of these so-called “revolutions”?
Despite uncountable crimes against humanity, modern capitalist hegemony in the imperialist world seems unassailable. The Watergate scandal in the US caused such an outcry not because of the nature of the crimes taking place but the cover-up itself. When Nixon was forced to step down to avoid impeachment, the system of capitalism in the US was not challenged, instead media organisations hailed the whole debacle as proof of the effectiveness of US democracy. When evidence of mass surveillance by the NSA was uncovered, a certain period of public outcry was followed by exactly zero uprisings against the US government. Outrage against these crimes never turned into outrage against capitalism and never manifested into mass action for real social change. Why is it so hard to organise people against an exploitative system that time and again shows its inhuman nature? And yet it is so easy to carry out a colour revolution?
While there are many potential reasons or contributing factors such as the media power of imperialist countries and problems with ideological education in socialist countries, there is one particular vector of infection affecting China that I would like to draw attention to today: Students who study abroad.
When Chinese students go abroad to study, they are being sent right into the jaws of the class enemy. They leave the protective environment of socialist construction and arrive in a land drenched in anti-communism. Research has proven that Chinese students who study in the US are more likely to support US government policy and develop an affinity for US values. Local media and interactions with locals all act upon the impressionable minds of Chinese youth, planting the seeds of bourgeoisie ideology.
Universities in the imperialist countries are institutions designed to produce the guardians of bourgeoisie ideology. So of course, they have their own special techniques for indoctrinating international students. Let me give a real world example of one particular technique. A university in Finland currently offers a subject called: “Understanding East Asia”. In one lesson about colonialism in Asia, students were told to hold a debate where the topic was basically that western countries were right to colonise Asia and that it was a benefit to the ungrateful locals. The debate was presented as a fair and neutral event with the teacher as an unbiased arbiter. Of course, the debate process was highly biased against Chinese students attempting to defend the truth. Chinese students usually do not have much experience with debating and were at a disadvantage compared to local students due to English difficulties. The lesson content also heavily favoured the affirmative team in the debate. A biased question, process and umpire unsurprisingly lead to a biased outcome. The Chinese side lost the argument. These debates are a weekly occurrence and serve a deeply ideological purpose. They serve to undermine the worldview of international students. Students are tricked by the facade of impartiality and the fable of academic freedom into believing that what they were taught in the home country is not true and that what they are being taught now is a kind of previously censored truth. Guess what next week’s debate topic is? “The US involvement in Vietnam was the right thing to do and China is a real threat!”. You can’t make this stuff up.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Using method after method, Chinese students who study in capitalist countries, particularly the imperialist countries, are carefully indoctrinated in the world-view of the capitalist class. Once so programmed, they become trojan horses, ready to return to China and take up important positions in the Party, government and society. Once there, their actions are coloured by what they learned overseas. It should be clear to everyone present the danger that this presents.
As the number of students going overseas increases every year, so too does the danger. But not all is lost. My own decade-long experience with Chinese students here and in Australia has shown me that there are ways that we can fight back on this front of the ideological struggle.
Today, I am offering the Communist Party of China, The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and anyone who will listen, the chance to cooperate to protect Chinese students from capitalist indoctrination abroad. Close cooperation between Chinese organisations and Communist Parties in the capitalist countries can form the basis for active resistance.
How can foreign parties help? There are many ways. Person-to-person contact with foreign party members helps to show Chinese students that Marxism-Leninism is an international trend, it shows them that despite the propaganda they are surrounded by, capitalism is a deeply flawed, exploitative system. Local members can immunise international students by explaining techniques or arguments that universities and the media use. Forewarned is forearmed!
These are just a few of the many ways that communist parties in capitalist countries can help to protect Chinese, Vietnamese, Cuban or Korean students from the insidious forces seeking to corrupt them. Through further discussion, research and practice, we can find the right combination of methods to succeed.
At the end of his article: “War on Progress by Other Means”, Bob Briton concluded by posing the question: “What can be done about the massive cultural and ideological hegemonic power of imperialism and how can socialist societies defend themselves against such destabilisation”? One part of such a defence must be the protection of international students from ideological contamination. Their time abroad should help them to see the bankruptcy of capitalism and build their faith in socialism, not the other way round. The ticking time bomb of ideologically corrupt returnees must be stopped before they become the Gorbachevs of tomorrow.
Thank you comrades, I look forward to working out practical measures for cooperation after today’s speeches.