This is a reflection on the insights I gained in reading chapter 8 of the book, Essential Readings in Comparative Politics by Patrick O’Neill and Ronald Rogowski, on communism and postcommunism.
That a country can be as traumatized as an individual who had undergone immense hardships was a completely new concept to me. But Pye says that such are China and Russia. I was particularly struck with China’s. They hold many nationalist – more than national – celebrations, of which the spirit is empty to its citizens; the observations of which are not internal but all merely an exterior guise to parade the “success” of the ideologies of the state. For what should the state be lauded or in celebration for – the famine? the Tiananmen Square murders? Unlike here in the Philippines where we take a moment to at least recognize and talk about in the media national tragedies, e.g. Valentine’s Day Bombing, etc., such an act is unthinkable in China for it will only find the wrath of the government. Why can they not speak of the high accolade given Liu Xiaobo last year, the Nobel Peace Prize? This is because for years he was imprisoned for his call to end communism in his homeland. A government that does not want any wrong to be said of it cannot be right.
Another thing that struck me from the fact that China has “no institutional way for people to protest” (Buruma, 2001), is how structures that allow us as citizens of this country to express – verbally, in print, or in whatever resourceful and inventive way we can air our opinions and grievances to and/or against the administration – are sorely needed in a state, and that this is a dire need is what I am recognizing as I get a more in-depth look at China’s government. Repression of the people, and one whose economy is advancing globally, paves the way for the enlightenment of a people brainwashed in the supremacy of the state over all, not the least of it a divine entity. This is because as China is becoming increasingly wealthy and modernized – much unlike their ideological brother North Korea, whose people have no way of knowing what is happening outside their borders – the Chinese are gaining more knowledge of the goings-on geopolitically. This is also, arguably, the reason for the Tiananmen protests of the 1989; students have become educated and informed and learned of what was repressive from what was not.
I read on Newsweek that China is taking steps to advance not only economically but also in terms of giving their people more voice. They have provided a way online for the citizens to state their concerns on a government website. My earnest hope is that they will incorporate more such channels for people to truly be heard. I don’t believe that a state should shut off the voice of the people because they are the recipients of whatever forms of manifestations the decisions of the state brings about.
To end, I will quote Marx: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win” (Marx, 1969). With that I surmise that Marx’s assertion is that communism frees from chains. This chapter has made me think about how corruption steals and how communism kills, an opinion I know will be met with not so little a disapproval. Nevertheless, this drives me to further ask, which is the more despotic oxymoron – corrupt democracy or freeing communism?
O’Neill, Patrick and Ronald Rogowski. Essential Readings in Comparative Politics. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006.
O’Neill, Patrick H. Essentials of Comparative Politics. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007