Monday, June 25, 2007

Maoism and the Fourth World

Now onto slightly more serious stuff. The type of interpretation of Chinese Communism given in the below post, i.e. that it attempted to figure out what equality and socialism meant for non-capitalist economies, has a big flaw, actually two big flaws that are intertwined.

The first one can be seen when looking at the sort of indigenous societies typically referred to as the Fourth World, but the same idea could apply to many Third World societies as well. In these societies the line between the distribution of wealth and the distribution of power, on the one hand, and cultural and religious leadership, on the other, isn't really defined so well. This leads to the situation where if a group wants to establish a sort of socialist equality for their society they may end up attacking not just inequality but the very foundations of the worldview on which that society is based. This situation leads to the second flaw.

The hardcore Maoists would say sure, you can't separate the two sorts of functions, that's why you need a cultural revolution to destroy the cultural and religious traditions that keep people oppressed or that allow the oppression based on power and economic inequalities to exist. This not only doesn't help the situation that the first problem revolves around, it in fact deepens the crisis considerably. After all, now you aren't just talking about infringing on people's religious and cultural traditions in order to create economic and political equality, you're actually talking about eliminating those traditions entirely.

This was the justification for suppressing Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism in China. The idea of Confucianism was about the most straightforward, because it was the court religion/philosophy, but it's also a major part of the Chinese cultural heritage.

Although it's perhaps not the biggest issue involved, there's also the question of what replaces these things. My understanding may be flawed but the impression I get is that Mao and company tried to impose a bastardized Westernism on China, i.e. Westernism with Chinese characteristics.

The justification of having a cultural revolution to truly allow for economic and political equality was also what was used to explaion the invasion of Tibet by China, although there were also long standing territorial interests on the part of China, with Tibet being something that Chinese governments had tried, sometimes succesfully to take in the past.

But no matter what the other issues, once China took over Tibet it carried out a cultural Revolution there as well, shutting monasteries and labelling them parasites on the backs of the people, and after the Dalai Lama left labelling the entire society as a corrupt theocracy run for the benefit of the Dalai Lama and the monks, with the actual conditions of the Tibetan people ignored.

The Dalai Lama has been careful not to either paint too rosey a picture of how Tibet was, i.e. that it was a paradise on earth, or, of course, to endorse the Chinese view more than is justified.

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