(यह 22 जून 1791 को महान क्रांतिकारी रोबस्पेरे द्वारा फ़्रांस की संविधान सभा में दिये गए भाषण का हिंदी अनुवाद है. पाठक देख सकते हैं कि मृत्युदंड का विरोध किस तरह आज से ही नहीं बल्कि फ्रांस की क्रांति के समय से ही समाज के जनवादीकरण से जुडा हुआ है. और यह भाषण आज भी किस तरह प्रासंगिक बना हुआ है.)
एथेंस में जब खबर पहुंची कि अर्गोस नगर के नागरिकों को मृत्युदंड दिया गया है तो वहां के लोग भाग कर देवालयों में गए और उन्होंने देवताओं को आह्वान किया कि वे एथेंस के लोगों को ऐसे भयानक और क्रूर विचारों से बचाएं. मेरा आह्वान देवताओं से नहीं कानून निर्माताओं से है, उनसे जो देवत्व के शाश्वत नियमों के संचालक और भाष्यकार हैं, कि ऐसे खूनी कानूनों को फ़्रांस की संहिता से मिटा दे जो न्यायिक हत्याओं को निर्देशित करते हैं और जिनको उनकी नैतिकता और नया संविधान ख़ारिज करते हैं. मैं उनके समक्ष साबित करना चाहता हूँ : 1. कि मृत्युदंड सारतः अन्याय है. और 2. कि यह दण्डो में से सबसे दमनकारी नहीं है और यह अपराधों को रोकने से ज्यादा उन्हें संगुणित करता है.
नागरिक समाज के दायरे से बाहर यदि एक कटु शत्रु मेरा जीवन ख़त्म करने की कोशिश करता है, या बीसियों बार धकेलने पर भी मेरे द्वारा उगाई गई फसल को नष्ट करने वापस आ जाता है. तो क्योंकि मेरे पास विरोध के लिए केवल मेरी व्यक्तिगत शक्ति का ही सहारा है इसलिए मुझे उसे अनिवार्यतः नष्ट करना होगा या उसे ख़त्म कर देना होगा और प्राकृतिक रक्षण का नियम मुझे औचित्य और स्वीकृति प्रदान करता है. लेकिन समाज में, जब सभी की शक्ति केवल किसी एक व्यक्ति के खिलाफ लामबंद है तो न्याय का कौन सा सिद्धांत उसकी हत्या की स्वीकृति दे सकता है? कौन सी अनिवार्यता इसे दोषमुक्त कर सकती है? एक विजेता जो अपने बंदी शत्रु की हत्या करता है बर्बर कहलाता है! एक प्रौढ़ जो किसी बालक को शक्तिहीन कर उसे दंड देने की सामर्थ्य रखता है यदि उसकी हत्या कर दे तो राक्षस समझा जाता है! एक अभियुक्त जिसे समाज द्वारा सजा दी गई है एक पराजित और शक्तिहीन शत्रु के सिवा कुछ भी नहीं है और वह एक प्रौढ़ के सामने बालक से भी ज्यादा असहाय है.
अतः, सत्य और न्याय की नज़र में मौत के ये नज़ारे जिन्हें यह अनुष्ठानपूर्वक आदेशित करता है, कायराना कत्लों के सिवा कुछ भी नहीं है, ये केवल कुछ व्यक्तियों के बजाय समूचे राष्ट्र के द्वारा कानूनी तरीको से किये गये गंभीर अपराध है. कानून चाहे कैसे भी निर्मम और वैभवशाली क्यों न हों, हैरान मत होइए, ये चंद उत्पीड़कों के कारनामों से ज्यादा कुछ नहीं हैं. ये ऐसी काराएं हैं जिनसे मानव जाति को अधोपतित किया जाता है. ये ऐसी भुजाएं हैं जिनसे उसे पराधीन किया जाता है,
ये कानून खून से लिखे गए हैं. किसी भी रोमन नागरिक को मौत की सजा देना वर्जित था. यह जनता द्वारा बनाया गया कानून था. लेकिन विजयी स्काईला ने कहा : वे सभी जिन्होंने मेरे विरुद्ध अस्त्र उठाये मृत्यु के भागी हैं. ओक्टावियन और अपराध में उसके सहभागियों ने इस नए कानून की पुष्टि की.
तिबेरियस की अधीनता में ब्रूटस की प्रशंसा करना मृत्युयोग्य अपराध था. कालिगुला ने उन सबको मृत्युदंड दिया जिन्होंने भी सम्राट के चित्र के समक्ष नग्न होने की धृष्टता की. एक बार जब आतताई शासकों द्वारा राजद्रोह के अपराध – जो अवज्ञापूर्ण या नायकोचित कृत्य हुआ करते थे – का आविष्कार कर लिया गया तो फिर कौन बिना स्वयं को राजद्रोह का भागी बनाए यह सोचने की हिम्मत कर सकता था कि इनकी सजा मृत्युदंड से थोड़ी कम होनी चाहिए?
अज्ञानता और निरंकुशता के राक्षसी मिलन से पैदा हुए उन्माद ने जब दैवीय राजद्रोह के अपराध का आविष्कार कर लिया, जब इसने अपने मतिभ्रम में स्वयं ईश्वर का प्रतिशोध लेने का बीड़ा उठा लिया, तब क्या यह जरुरी नहीं हो गया था कि यह उन्हें रक्त अर्पित करे, और स्वयं को ईश्वर का ही रूप मानने वाले, उसे दरिन्दे की श्रेणी में पहुंचा दें?
पुरातन बर्बर कायदे के समर्थक कहते है कि मृत्युदंड अनिवार्य है, बिना इसके अपराध पर लगाम लगाना संभव नहीं है. यह आपसे किसने कहा? क्या आपने उन सभी अंकुशों का आकलन कर लिया है जिनके द्वारा दंडविधान मनुष्य की संवेदना पर काम करता है? अफ़सोस, मृत्यु से पहले मनुष्य कितना शारीरिक और नैतिक कष्ट सहन कर सकता है?
जीने की इच्छा उस आत्मसम्मान के सामने नतमस्तक हो जाती है, जो ह्रदय पर शासन करने वाले आवेगों में सबसे प्रबल होता है. एक सामजिक मनुष्य के लिए सबसे खतरनाक सजा अपमानित होना है, सार्वजनिक निंदा का पात्र बन जाना है. यदि कानून निर्माता नागरिक को इतनी सारी नाजुक जगहों पर चोट पहुंचा सकता है तो उसे मृत्युदंड के इस्तेमाल करने की हद तक क्यों गिर जाना चाहिए? दंड दोषी को यातना देने के लिए नहीं होता है, वरन वह उसके भय से अपराध को रोकने के लिए दिया जाता है.
जो कानून निर्माता मृत्यु और उत्पीड़नकारी सजाओं को अन्य तरीकों के ऊपर वरीयता देता है वह जनभावनाओं को आहत करता है और शासितों के बीच अपनी नैतिक साख को कमजोर करता है. एक ऐंसे ढोंगी गुरु की तरह जो बार बार की क्रूर सजाओं से अपने शिष्य की आत्मा को जड़ और अपमानित बना देता है. वह कुछ ज्यादा ही जोर से दबाकर सरकार की स्प्रिंगों को ढीला और कमजोर कर देता है.
जो कानून निर्माता म्रत्युदंड का विधान स्थापित करता है वह इस उपयोगी सिद्धांत का निषेध करता है कि किसी अपराध को दबाने का सबसे सही तरीका उन आवेगों की प्रकृति के अनुसार दंड तय करना है जोकि उसको पैदा करते हैं. मृत्युदंड का विधान इन सभी विचारों को धूमिल कर देता है यह सभी अन्तःसम्बन्धों को विघटित कर देता है और इस प्रकार दंडात्मक कानून के उद्देश्य का ही खुलेआम निषेध करता है.
आप कहते हैं कि मृत्युदंड अनिवार्य है. यदि यह सत्य है तो क्यों बहुत सारे लोगों को इसकी जरुरत नहीं पड़ी. विधि के किस विधान के तहत ऐसे लोग ही सबसे बुद्धिमान, सबसे खुश और सबसे स्वतंत्र थे? यदि मृत्युदंड ही बड़े अपराधों को रोकने के लिए सबसे उचित है तो ऐसे अपराध वहां सबसे कम होने चाहिए जहाँ इसे अपनाया और प्रयोग किया गया. किन्तु तथ्य एकदम विपरीत हैं. जापान को देखिये: वहां से ज्यादा मृत्युदंड और यातनाएं और कहीं नहीं दी जाती परन्तु वहां से अधिक संख्या में और वहां से अधिक जघन्य अपराध और कहीं नहीं होते. कोई कह सकता है कि जापानी लोग भीषणता में उन बर्बर कानूनों को चुनौती देना चाहते हैं जो उन्हें आहत और परेशान करते हैं. क्या यूनानी गणतन्त्रों -जहाँ सजाएँ नरम थी और जहां मृत्युदंड या तो बहुत कम थे या थे ही नहीं- में खूनी कानूनों द्वारा शासित देशों से ज्यादा अपराध और कम अच्छाइयां थी? क्या आपको लगता है की रोम में पोर्सियाई ज़माने में जब इसके वैभवशाली दिन थे, जब सारे कड़े कानूनों को हटा दिया गया था, स्काईला जो अपने अत्याचारों के लिए कुख्यात था, के जमाने की तुलना में ज्यादा अपराध होते थे, जब सभी कठोर कानूनों को वापस ले आया गया था? क्या रूस के निरंकुश शासक ने जब से मृत्युदंड को ख़त्म कर दिया है वहां किसी प्रकार का संकट आ खड़ा हुआ है? ऐसा लगता है कि इस तरह की मानवता और दार्शनिकता का प्रदर्शन करके वह लाखों लोगों को अपनी निरंकुश सत्ता के अधीन रखने के जुर्म से दोषमुक्त होना चाहते हैं.
न्याय और विवेक की बात सुनिए. ये आपको चिल्ला कर कह रहे हैं कि मानवीय निर्णय कभी भी इतने निश्चित नहीं होते कि वे कुछ मनुष्यों द्वारा जो कि गलतियाँ कर सकते हैं, किसी अन्य व्यक्ति की मृत्यु के बारे में तय करने के औचित्य का प्रतिपादन कर सकें. यदि आप सबसे सम्पूर्ण न्यायिक फैसले की भी कल्पना कर लें, यदि आप सबसे ज्यादा ज्ञानी और ईमानदार जजों की भी व्यवस्था कर लें तब भी गलतियों की संभावना बची रहती है. आप इन गलतियों को सुधारने के औजारों से स्वयं को क्यों वंचित कर देना चाहते हैं? स्वयं को किसी उत्पीडित निर्दोष की मदद करने में अक्षम क्यों बना देना चाहते हैं? क्या किसी अदृश्य छाया के लिए, किसी अचेतन राख के लिए आपके बाँझ पाश्चाताप का, आपकी भ्रामक भूलसुधार का कोई अर्थ है? वे आपके दंड विधान की बर्बर तत्परता के त्रासद साक्ष्य हैं. अपराध को पाश्चाताप और अच्छे कार्यों के द्वारा सुधार सकने की संभावना को किसी व्यक्ति से छीन लेना, अच्छाई की तरफ उसके लौट आने के सारे रास्ते निर्ममता से बंद कर देना, उसके पतन को शीघ्रता से कब्र तक पहुंचा देना जो अब भी उसके अपराध से दागदार है, मेरी नज़र में क्रूरता का सबसे भयावह परिष्करण है.
एक कानून निर्माता का सबसे पहला कर्तव्य उन सार्वजनिक नैतिक मूल्यों की स्थापना करना और उन्हें बचाए रखना है, जो सभी आज़ादियों और सभी सामाजिक खुशियों के मूल स्रोत हैं. किसी विशिष्ट उद्देश्य को पाने के प्रयास में यदि वह सामान्य और आवश्यक उद्देश्यों को भूल जाता है तो वह सबसे भौंडी और भयानक गलती करता है. अतः राजा को लोगों के सामने न्याय और विवेक का सबसे आदर्श उदहारण पेश करना चाहिए. यदि इस को परिभाषित करने वाली शक्तिशाली, संयत, और उदार सख्ती की जगह क्रोध और प्रतिशोध से काम लेते हैं, यदि वे बिना वजह के खून बहाते हैं, जिसको बचाया जा सकता था और जिसे बहाने का उन्हें कोई अधिकार नहीं. और वे लोगों के सामने निर्मम दृश्य, और यातना से विकृत लाशों को प्रस्तुत करते हैं तो यह नागरिकों के जेहन में न्याय और अन्याय के विचार को बदल देता है. वे समाज में ऐसे तीखे दुराग्रहों के बीज बो देते हैं जो उतरोतर बढ़ते जाते हैं. मनुष्य, मनुष्य होने की गरिमा खो देता है जब उसके जीवन को इतनी आसानी से जोखिम में डाला जा सकता है. हत्या का विचार तब इतना डरावना नहीं रह जाता जब कानून खुद ही इसे एक मिसाल और तमाशे की तरह पेश करता है. अपराध की भयावहता तब कम हो जाती है जब उसे एक और अपराध के जरिये दण्डित किया जाता है. किसी दंड की प्रभावपूर्णता को उसकी कठोरता की मात्रा से मत आंकिये: ये दोनों एक दूसरे के एकदम उलटी बाते हैं. हर कोई उदार कानूनों की सहायता करता है. हर कोई कठोर कानूनों के खिलाफ षड्यंत्र करता है.
यह देखा गया है की स्वतंत्र देशों में अपराध कम हैं और दंडात्मक कानून ज्यादा उदार हैं. कुल मिलाकर, स्वतंत्र देश वे हैं जहाँ व्यक्ति के अधिकारों का सम्मान किया जाता है और इसके फलस्वरूप जहाँ के कानून न्यायपूर्ण हैं. जहाँ अतिशय कष्ट देकर मानवता का उल्लंघन किया जाता है यह इस बात का प्रमाण है कि वहां मनुष्यता की गरिमा को अभी पहचाना नहीं गया है, यह इस बात का प्रमाण है कि वहां कानून निर्माता स्वामी है जो दासों को चलाता है और अपनी मर्जी के मुताबिक जब चाहे उन्हें सजाएं देता है. अतः मेरा निष्कर्ष है कि मृत्युदंड को समाप्त कर देना चाहिए.
(अनुवाद: कुलदीप प्रकाश)
शहीद भगत सिंह साम्राज्यवाद के खिलाफ भारतीय जनता के संघर्ष के सबसे उज्जवल नायकों में से एक रहे हैं. तेईस वर्ष की छोटी उम्र में शहीद होने वाले इस नौजवान को भारतीय जनता एक ऐसे उत्साही देशप्रेमी नौजवान के रूप में याद करती है जिसने ब्रिटिश साम्राज्यवाद से समझौताविहीन लड़ाई लड़ी और अंत में अपने ध्येय के लिए शहीद हुआ. लेकिन अपेक्षाकृत कम ही लोग भगत सिंह एवं उनके क्रांतिकारी साथियों के विचारों से सही मायनों में परिचित हैं. भगत सिंह एवं उनके साथियों के लेख एवं दस्तावेजों का व्यापक रूप से उपलब्ध न होना इसकी एक बड़ी वजह रहा है और हमारे आज के शासकों के लिए भी यही मुफीद है कि भगत सिंह के क्रांतिकारी विचारों को जनता के सामने न आने दिया जाये. क्योंकि भगत सिंह के लेख एवं दस्तावेज मनुष्य द्वारा मनुष्य के शोषण की व्यवस्था के बारें में सही और वैज्ञानिक समझ विकसित करते हैं और इसके खिलाफ जनता की लड़ाई को सही दिशा देते हैं. भगत सिंह उन विरले विचारकों में से थे जो उस समय ही यह बात जोर देकर कह रहे थे कि केवल अंग्रेजों के भारत से चले जाने से ही आम जनता की स्थिति में कोई बदलाव नहीं आएगा जब तक की इस शोषणकारी व्यवस्था को न बदला जाय. हम यहाँ भगत सिंह द्वारा लिखित लेखों एवं दस्तावेजों के लिंक पीडीएफ फॉर्मेट में प्रस्तुत कर रहे हैं. काफी कोशिशों के बाद भी ‘ड्रीमलैंड की भूमिका’ जैसे कुछ महत्वपूर्ण दस्तावेज छूट गये हैं. पाठकों से आग्रह है की यदि आपके पास यह लेख हो तो कृपया इसे कमेन्ट बॉक्स में प्रेषित कर दें.
(This is a transcript of a very important interview of Julian Assange taken by Laura Emmett for rt.com. He talks about Arab ‘Revolutions’, Media, Internet, The facebook phenomina and Wikileaks itself in a clear and coherent manner. The video of the interview can be watched here.)
RT: Julian, thank you for talking to RT. Now, through the course of your work, you have some insight into the way that political decisions are made throughout the world. What do you make of the recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa at the moment? Do you think that we are seeing genuine social unrest or are we seeing some kind of orchestrated revolt and if so, who do you think is behind all this?
JA: There is genuine change in some parts of the Middle East. I mean Egypt is a clear case. I was concerned at the beginning over the Egyptian revolution: whether we just saw a changing of the chairs and the maintenance of the same existing power structure, or whether something was really happening.
But after Mubarak fled Cairo, you saw mini-revolutions occurring in every institution within Egypt, from Alexandria to Cairo. So, that’s the sort of change that’s hard to undo.
What’s happening in some other countries is a bit different. The situation in Libya clearly has an involvement of state actors in it from many different areas. That’s something that has been driven by state actors. Now, it is normal for neighboring countries to have interconnections with each other: the activists in different countries, families in different countries, businesses in different countries, and the states from neighboring countries. That’s normal.
When outside forces from very, very far-flung countries start to take an aggressive role in a regional affair, then we have to look a bit more and say that what is going on is not normal. So, what’s happening in Libya, for example, is not normal. Continue reading
by Susannah York
A World to Win News Service.
Madhusree Mukerjee’s book, Churchill fs Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II
(Basic Books, New York, 2010), is a deeply moving read. Her subject is the 1943 famine that ravaged India for over a year, snuffing out the lives of 3 million people. Mukerjee argues that the figure should be adjusted upwards to over 5 million. When thinking about the millions of dead resulting from World War II, many atrocities come to mind: the 6 million Jews killed in the concentration camps, half a million Roma, 20 million Soviet citizens, 8 million Chinese, to name only some examples. Not so well-known, especially to people from the imperialist citadels, are those who suffered and died from what Mukerjee calls the “man-made” famine in India, a human catastrophe that could have been easily prevented if Churchill had not refused to assign available ships from Australia to carry their surplus grain to the Bengal region. This famine gets rarely mentioned in British history.
A former writer/editor for Scientific American and a trained scientist in her own right, Mukerjee’s preoccupation with the question of hunger and famine led her to delve deeply and thoroughly into the archives of the British War Cabinet and the Ministries of War and Transport, the correspondence between the various major British players, and their memoirs during World War II. Much of this material was first made available in the mid-2000s. Among them are Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Secretary of State to India Leopold Amery (who thought that the British Empire should be contiguous and stretch from Cape Town through Cairo, Baghdad and Calcutta to Sydney) and the successive viceroys to India, Lords Linlithgow and Wavell. In an interview, Mukerjee acknowledges that given where her investigation was leading, she knew that if she were not especially careful, she would be torn apart by those who hated her conclusions.
Mukerjee’s prologue provides background to how the British government subjugated India in 1757 and continued robbing it through steep taxation, theft of resources, unequal trade and the exploitation of its people for 200 years under colonial domination until its independence in 1947. Peasants were forced to pay the British East India Company rent for the land they farmed and to turn over a large percentage of the crop yield. The once prosperous exporters in the Bengal region of North-East India (including what is now Bangladesh) became impoverished as British-bound ships loaded with gold, silver, silks and other valuable commodities sailed off to London. Continue reading
Students’ Convention demanding immediate statehood for Telangana
and to form students’ solidarity committee for separate Telangana
11am – 5pm, 10 March 2011, JNU, New Delhi
Students’ March to Parliament
11 am, 9 March 2011, Mandi House to Parliament Street
The world has been very much familiar with the history of the heroic sacrifices of the Telangana people. The struggle for a separate Telangana state is one of the most longstanding democratic movements of the Indian subcontinent. From the very inception of Andhra Pradesh in 1956 the people of Telangana have demanded a separate statehood. The more than five decades of continuous struggle have resulted today in the recognition and acceptance of a separate Telangana as a necessity among the people of the country. There is a wide acceptance among the rest of Andhra Pradesh that its people have a right to a separate statehood because they have been economically, socially, politically and culturally exploited and discriminated against by the rulers of Seemandhra. Clearly, it is only with the formation of a separate Telangana that a concrete step towards resolving the problems of the region can be taken, and a true people-oriented process of development can be initiated.
The present Telangana movement is in a continuation to the movement that had begun seven decades ago, with a great vision to liberate Telangana people from the clutches of Nizam’s brutal autocracy and the system of Vetti. The people of Telangana were made to join the Indian Union on 17 September 1948, while the people of India is said to have got independence from British colonialism on 15 August 1947. This political change created the necessary conditions to exploit the region with the establishment of Seemandhra colonial rule in the form of government employees from Seemandhra, who replaced the Nizam rule. Seeing that the independent Hyderabad state has been a potential source of natural resources like coal, iron-ore, limestone, forest wealth, water resources and the cheap labour of hard-working Telangana people, Seemandhra capitalists and feudal landlords who constitute the ruling classes usurped the Telangana region. Against the recommendations of Fazl Ali State Reorganisation Committee Report which recommended Hyderabad state to be independent, and against the aspirations of the Telangana people, Andhra Pradesh state was formed, merging Seemandhra region with Telangana region. All the GOs, committees and agreements that have been made, right from the Gentlemen’s Agreement in 1956 to GO 36, 6 Point Formula, 8 Point Formula, Regional Council, Presidential Order, 610 GO, Girglani Commission, Pranab Mukherjee Committee, Rosaiah Committee and even the most recent Sri Krishna Committee, are the attempts of the Government of India to betray the democratic demands of the Telangana people, who have consistently fought against the secret plot behind the ‘Telugu nationality’. Continue reading
— Joseph Ball
(Some months before when the great students movement in UK was going on, we requested author Joseph Ball to write about this historical movement. unfortunately mail written by Joseph was deliverd in our spam folder. we are posting this article late but it is still very relevent because we are witnessing a great renewal of the mass movements around the world specially involving students and youths. these movements are presenting great hope and chellenges among all the revolutionary students of the world. we hope readers will forgive us for the delay in posting. –Editor)
The current student protest movement is the most militant mass protest movement that has occurred in Britain since the anti-Poll Tax campaign, twenty years ago. Students are occupying their colleges and school students are walking out of lessons to join the protests. Young people have confronted state power and attacked symbols of wealth and inequality. This movement is a response to two UK government attacks on youth in Britain. The first is a proposal to raise tuition fees for British students to a maximum of £9000 a year. Students will have to take out a loan to pay these fees, which they will pay back by instalments after graduation. This measure was announced in October by the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. The second is the government policy to abolish the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for new applicants from January 2011. The EMA gives children from lower income families up to £60 a fortnight if they stay at school after 16 (the age at which children can legally leave school). The movement is therefore composed of both school students and university students, with efforts being made to attract the solidarity of trade unionists.
On 10th November students who broke away from a march organised by the National Union Of Students stormed the headquarters of the Conservative Party. Weekly protests in central London have occurred since then, along with protests in other cities and college occupations. A massive protest took place in central London on December 9th when Parliament voted to pass the legislation introducing the higher tuition fees. Most students protested outside Parliament, while others targeted shops in London’s West End owned by capitalists who are allowed to avoid taxes by the UK government. One group in the West End ran into Prince Charles and his wife and blocked their car shouting slogans. Continue reading
– Binayak Sen
I am a trained medical doctor with a specialization in child health. I completed my MBBS from the Christian Medical College, Vellore in 1972, and completed studies leading to the award of the degree of MD (Paediatrics) of the Madras University, from the same institution in 1976. After this, I joined the faculty of the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and worked there for two years, before leaving to join a field based health programme at the Friends Rural Centre, Rasulia in Hoshangabad, MP. During the two years I worked there, I worked intensively in the diagnosis and treatment of Tuberculosis and understood many of the social and economic causes of disease. I was also strongly influenced by the work of Marjorie Sykes, the biographer of Mahatma Gandhi, who lived at the Rasulia centre at that time.
I came to Chhattisgarh in 1981 and worked upto 1987 at Dalli Rajhara (district Durg), where, along with the late Shri Shankar Guha Niyogi and the workers of the Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh, I helped to establish the Shaheed Hospital, that continues to practice low cost and rational medicine for the adivasis and working people of the surrounding areas upto the present. After leaving Dalli Rajhara, I worked to develop a health programme among the Adivasi population in and around village Bagrumnala, which today is in Dhamtari district. This work depended on a large group of village based health workers who were trained and guided by me. When the new state of Chhattisgarh was formed, I was appointed a member of the advisory group on Health Care Sector reforms, and helped to develop the Mitanin programme, which in turn, became the role model for the ASHA of the National Rural Health Mission. A copy of the Order of the Department of Health and Family Welfare of the Govt. of Chhattisgarh regarding my nomination to the advisory group mentioned above is attached. (Annexure 1.) Continue reading
A World to Win News Service.
On 9 December Parliament Square in London became the scene of an intense struggle. On one side were energetic university and secondary school students fighting for their right to an education and for the education of future generations. On the other were around 650 Members of Parliament hiding behind a brutal police force as they prepared to dictate a tripling of tuition fees to as much as £9,000 ($14,000) per year.
Tens of thousands of London students and pupils had walked out of class that morning to join a mass march through central London to Parliament Square. They assembled at Malet Street in front of the Union of London University (ULU). As they marched, passers-by expressed warm support. The provocative intentions of the police were clear from the beginning. As the march moved through Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, the main route to Parliament Square, was blocked by a police line so that the students could not pass by the Prime Minister’s residence in Downing Street. Protesters were forced to go through St James Park where they were again blocked
But the police could not resist the enormous mass of protesters and were forced to retreat inch by inch. Finally demonstrators managed to break through into Parliament Square. As groups of students started fighting the police, the police did not hesitate to respond as brutally as they could. While the police were beating some students with their batons other youth joined hands and danced in the square without fear. The protesters’ spirits were high and lively.
By just past 3 pm the police had been humiliated. A police van and all the police and their riot shields in front of the van were covered with paint.
Despite police promises not to stop the demonstration they started to close all the roads coming into Parliament Square to prevent more people from joining it. They also surrounded and “kettled” (trapped) those already in the square. While anxious parents and others watching live TV coverage were told that the youth were free to leave, that was a lie. By 5 pm no protesters were allowed out and the ring around them was getting tighter and tighter. The students were frustrated and angered by this “kettling” that was first used at the 2009 anti-G20 demos and has become a favourite police tactic in the UK.
At 5:40 the vote of the Parliament was announced. Many students felt that Parliament had shamefully ignored the people’s will and the struggle with the police intensified. As the police raised their sticks higher and hit harder, angry demonstrators fought back and attacked the Treasury Office and the Royal Court of Justice. They tried to bring down the Union Jack (British flag). The statue of that great man of empire Winston Churchill and the War Memorial were also targeted.
The fight between protesters and the police got even fiercer and both sides threw crowd-control barriers at one another. The police kept beating students indiscriminately and attacking them on horseback.
To give a taste of what it feels like to be kettled, we quote the following: “Gabriel Lukes, 14, left Dunraven school in south London on his own to join in the march. He was kettled in Parliament Square before being moved to Westminster Bridge just after 9 pm. He stood alone for two hours before being allowed off at 11 pm. His father Peter was waiting for him. ‘It was cold, cramped, you had like half a metre to yourself,’ he said. ‘It was just terrible.'” (Guardian, 10 December 2010)
Many people injured by the police were refused medical treatment and not allowed out of the temporary prison.
People attempted to break out, and some succeeded. A few protesters attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife.
According to eyewitnesses, when one of the officers chasing people on horseback fell to the ground and was trampled by his own horse, the police became even more aggressive in hitting and swearing at people.
A 20-year old philosophy student, Aflie Meadow, was left unconscious after a police officer hit him on the head with a truncheon while he was trying to leave Parliament Square. He underwent a three-hour operation for bleeding on the brain. The pavement designated a casualty area was littered with injured protesters. The majority were under 18. There have been reports in the media that around 40 protesters were taken to hospital, but these figures seem too low. There were certainly a great many walking wounded. It has been confirmed that police tried to stop hospital staff from treating the civilian wounded, including Meadow, who had to be taken from hospital to hospital. He is expected to recover.
Video footage posted on the Net since that night shows police dragging a disabled youth across the road after they tipped him out of his wheelchair. Another video shows at least one officer who removed her identification tag. This is considered a grave infraction of police regulations since officers without tags killed a bystander they mistook for a protester at last year’s anti-G20 demonstration.
The kettling continued into the night as a form of punishment. Then after 9 pm the police pushed all of the several thousand demonstrators onto the Westminster Bridge. They were kept trapped there until 11.30 pm, when they were allowed to leave one by one after being forced to show their faces to be filmed.
Many young people were beaten and/or arrested. Scotland Yard confirmed 26 arrests that night. Another nine have been been arrested since then and the police are circulating pictures of more than a dozen more wanted youth.
Thousands of demonstrators also marched through the city of Leeds, the constituency of Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal-Democrat party that is part of a Conservative party-lead governing coalition. There were reports of student protest marches and other actions in many other cities that day.
Building to a fever pitch
Opposition to the proposed fee hikes had been building up to a fever pitch for a month.
The first demonstration on 10 November saw more than 50,000 students march through central London to Millbank Tower, the headquarters of the Conservative Party. Angry students attacked the building, broke the police line and forced their way inside. They occupied the building, its roof and the court yard. At the end of day 35 students were arrested and 14 hospitalised.
On 24 and 30 November, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) organised more demonstrations and days of action across the UK. The biggest demonstration took place in central London, but according to BBC, tens of thousands of university students and now secondary school pupils also staged marches, occupations and other actions in Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Leeds, Brighton and other cities.
After the debacle at Millbank, the police prevented the 30 November march in London from reaching its destination, even though it had been authorised. Avoiding a frontal confrontation that seemed to be what the authorities wanted, protesters split up into small groups. Eventually they converged on Trafalgar Square, where police contained them. By the end of the day, more than 150 were arrested.
Universities and colleges in London and all over England are still occupied. Many students believe that the parliamentary vote in favour of the tuition hikes has not settled the issue and want to continue this struggle.
Why the fees increase
The new coalition cabinet of Tories (Conservatives) and Liberal-Democrats introduced a plan to save over 9 billion pounds annually through huge cuts in public spending. Budgets were cut for universities and education as a whole. This was followed by the plan to raise the cap on university fees to £9,000 a year. The government seemed confident that it could carry out this plan with no serious opposition but the student protests put an end to this dream.
Although the Labour party voted against the plan on 9 December, they were actually the first to introduce big tuition increases when they were in power, and they were the ones to commission the review that led to the current fee hikes. But the new coalition cabinet under Conservative leadership accelerated that trend with a speed that shocked everyone. Lib-Dem leader Clegg had put his signature on a pledge not to increase tuition when his party was campaigning for election. Then, after he became Deputy PM, he turned around and said that the pledge had been a “mistake” and that the proposed increases were “a fair and progressive solution to a very difficult problem.”
This arrogant dishonesty enraged many people, who tend to believe that the Lib-Dems sold out just to share power with the Tories. This is not quite correct. In fact, while all three parties had promised to reject even smaller tuition increases than the ones that were eventually adopted, none of them have now stated any opposition to them in principle. Even the opposition Labour Party’s disagreement is with the speed with which the increases are to be implemented, which they feel risks too much social discontent, and not with the overall approach.
The agreement among the ruling class parties is related to the financial crisis affecting all the imperialist countries, including the UK. Since the crisis broke out, billions of pounds have been allocated to bail out the big banks and companies and help them become more efficient and successful in their competition with the financial institutions of rival imperialist countries. The cost of these efforts is to be borne by the people. For many, this amounts to snatching away the promise of the kind of life they thought they were entitled to and guaranteed.
Education budgets in the UK have been reduced by billions of pounds over the last few years. This has already damaged the educational system and dramatically lowered its quality level. The UK has already gone from a third place ranking on a world scale to tenth. Previous fee increases and cuts in grants have made it much more difficult for people from the lower sections of society to acquire an advanced education. The availability of education to all, which was once proclaimed a right, has disappeared as an official goal for some time now.
The government defended the tuition increases by saying that students can get loans. Even if and when this is so, they must begin paying back the loans at the end of their study or when they find a job. That means students may start their post-university lives with a debt of 30,000-40,000 pounds that must be completely paid off within 25 years. Buying an education is the logic of capitalism. Education is to be privatised and any investment made conditional on its immediate profitability.
The idea behind this plan, or at least the excuse, is that by buying an education – as they might buy a suit – students can advance their earning power. But even if this “works” for some people, it can only increase social inequalities. Such an approach means a further step in reducing people to soulless, competing personifications of money. It robs individuals of their human potential and impoverishes society intellectually and culturally. No wonder so many youth reject this vision of the future.
Who are the hooligans?
The radical protest actions indicate the anger and frustration of students, teachers, lecturers and parents. They are fighting not only for themselves but for the education of future generations that is now under attack by the thugs who are trying to vandalise the whole educational system. Yet the government and some media have waged a campaign to depict the students as hooligans. They have launched a witch-hunt to criminalise these youth who are actually the hope of the future.
These huge and determined protests have signalled that the British ruling class and their guard dogs may have a very difficult time in carrying on with their planned “austerity” measures. Many people have compared these actions to the protests against the poll tax that broke the back of Margaret Thatcher’s government two decades ago. While it is impossible to predict where the student movement will go next, it can certainly be said that British imperialism is in a much weaker and more volatile situation and deeper in crisis than 20 years ago.
(Dongping Han grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution and now teaches in the U.S. He is the author of the book The Unknown Cultural Revolution—Life and Change in a Chinese Village. Following is an abridged version of the session at the end of a speech he gave in December 2008 at the New York symposium “Rediscovering the Chinese Cultural Revolution: Art and Politics, Lived Experience, Legacies of Liberation,” sponsored by Revolution Books, Set the Record Straight Project and Institute for Public Knowledge-New York University. The full version appeared in the 6 September 2009 issue of Revolution, voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. (revcom.us))
Question: You went back to China in 1986. When did you and others like you start to see that things were different, that China had become very different than what it had been during the Cultural Revolution?
Dongping Han: I think people realized right away. The land was privatized in China in 1983. Many people tend to think that farmers are stupid and ignorant. But I think the farmers are very intelligent people. Many of them realized the implications of private farming right away. That was why they resisted it very hard in the beginning. And in my village and in other villages I surveyed, the overwhelming majority of people, 90 percent, said the Communist Party no longer cares about poor people. Right away they felt this way. The Communist Party, the cadres, no longer cared about poor people in the countryside. The government investment in rural areas in the countryside dropped from 15 percent in the national budget in 1970s to only 3-4 percent in the ’80s. So the Chinese public realized that the Chinese government no longer cared about them by disbanding the communes. But I was in college at the time and I didn’t start to think about the issue very hard until 1986.
Q: Can you explain a little bit more how the Cultural Revolution came to your village?
DH: The Cultural Revolution started slowly. Before the start of the Cultural Revolution, there was a call to start to study Mao’s works. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army came to the village to read Chairman Mao’s works. They held performances in the village. They came to people’s home to teach people to read Mao’s three classic articles: “Serve the People”, “In Memory of Norman Bethune” and “The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains”. They explained to the villagers what these articles were about. After the PLA soldiers left, many school children, like myself, started to teach villagers about Mao’s works as well. When the central government announced the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, high school and middle school students left their schools, and began to write big character posters in the streets. The high school students dragged 20 of their teachers to the marketplace and denounced them publicly and shaved off half their hair in front of a big crowd. I do not think that most people knew what the Cultural Revolution would be like at the beginning.
Many students began to publish newspapers and pamphlets. There were so many pamphlets at the time, criticizing government officials. In the beginning they were mostly written by students. Not long after this, farmers and workers began to write them as well. There was so much information going on at the time. Later on, there was a group of high school and middle school students from my county that travelled all the way to Beijing to see Chairman Mao. When they came back in August 1966, they began to organize into different Red Guard factions. They started to organize mass rallies to criticize the county and commune leaders. All officials were under some kind of popular scrutiny and attack at the time.
Almost everybody, I would say 90 percent of the population, was part of a mass organization.
I was in third grade at that time. Five of my friends and I also organized a Red Guard organization. We designed our Red Guard symbols and began to publish a single page newspaper. We collected enough money to get a hand printer to print our newspaper. In my school there were 13 small newspapers. We would recruit others and write something and go to the marketplace to distribute it to the people. That’s how it started. There were big character posters everywhere. The village streets were plastered with big character posters, mostly criticizing village leaders. Before the Cultural Revolution, the village leaders had a lot of power. They normally didn’t work in the field and they would eat and drink a lot at the village’s expense. And the Cultural Revolution held them to task. That’s how it started actually.
In all these activities with the big character posters, all were written by the farmers themselves. And I remember some of the farmers who didn’t know how to write. They came to us, they came to the school kids, and we would write it for them. So it was a very mobilizing movement. Everybody in the village was touched by that.
The reason the officials are corrupt today and were not during the Cultural Revolution years is because the masses were really empowered. There was always a mass meeting every night and all the government policies and directives were read to the farmers. And it was required by the government at the time. They were read to the farmers and then the farmers discussed these documents, so everybody knew what was going on and why. The reason why the Chinese people were eager to read and willing to recite Mao’s works at the time is because they found what Mao said represented their best interests. And Mao said what they wanted to hear. For example Mao’s article “To Serve the People” is only one and a half pages long. But in this short article Mao elaborated on how a communist official should behave. A communist official shouldn’t have any self interests. He should work for the people and serve the people. They should care about the poor people and the farmers. They should welcome criticism. If they were not doing something right, they should change it for the sake of the people. This is all something the farmers never heard and they wanted to hear.
Q: Why during that time, during those 10 years of the Cultural Revolution, was there no effort made to purge the Communist Party of the right-wing capitalist roaders?
DH: The Cultural Revolution was not to purge people, it was to educate the people. Many of the capitalist roaders had fought for the revolution and made important contributions to the Chinese revolution. It was an accepted traditional idea that those who fight for the revolution should enjoy the privileges when the revolution succeeded. It was not enough to purge these people. The problem was the old traditional ideas. So the Cultural Revolution was to do away with the traditional ideas and educate the people through mobilizing the farmers and the workers. I think if there was no coup in 1976, I doubt that this government apparatus would have changed by itself. It happened because there was a coup. But I don’t think to purge people is a solution either. I remember during the Cultural Revolution there were some high officials in my county who encouraged their own children to work with the farmers and to ask for the most difficult assignments and tasks to build their character. It seemed that these high officials did change with the change of social climate during the Cultural Revolution years. But when the social climate changed, they changed back.
Most people were not aware that there was a coup in 1976. Mao’s wife and three other important leaders were arrested. And there was a very extensive purge throughout China. Hundreds of thousands of people who supported the Cultural Revolution were arrested right away. Some people argue that Mao should have killed Deng Xiaoping and a few others to prevent the arrest of the Gang of Four. Maybe he should have, but he did not.
Q: Could you paint a picture comparing what the average daily life was like for you and your family during the Cultural Revolution compared to, on the one hand communism before the Cultural Revolution, and then compared to your family now in capitalist China?
DH: The Cultural Revolution was launched because the Great Leap Forward failed. It failed partly because there was a 100-year natural disaster on the one hand. On the other hand, it failed because communist officials in the villages were not really socialist yet. They ordered farmers to do too much and they themselves didn’t want to work hard. There was not enough to eat during the Great Leap Forward because of the natural disasters on the one hand and mismanagement on the other. So the reason I think the Cultural Revolution was launched by Mao was that he realized at the time that the Chinese officials needed to be educated and that the Chinese people needed to be educated through a socialist movement. That’s why he mobilized the Chinese farmers to criticize the officials in the village. And of course, I was too young, I don’t remember too much about the Great Leap Forward. But during the Cultural Revolution, I remember very well. I was working in the fields with the farmers and at that time in the rural areas, each village had a production brigade, and each brigade was divided into several production teams. In my village there were eight production teams. Each production team had about 40 families. We elected five production team leaders each year. We had a production team head, a woman leader, an accountant, a cashier, and a store keeper. Before the Cultural Revolution these people were appointed by the village leaders and the village leaders were appointed by the commune leaders. It was not democratically elected. During the Cultural Revolution years, these production team leaders were elected by the farmers.
We worked in the fields together. Everybody came out and worked together. And at the end of the day the cashier would record how many people worked that day. And at the end of the year, when the harvest came in, the village accountant, together with the production team accountant, would develop a distribution plan. Seventy percent of the grain was distributed according to how many people you had in your family. Thirty percent was distributed according to how much you worked in the collective. So if you did not work in the fields, you were still entitled to 70 percent of the grain from the collective. That was the distribution on the production team level. There was also distribution at the production brigade level. The village owned many enterprises. After putting away money for a welfare fund, money to purchase new equipment and so on, the village would distribute its income according to how much you had worked in the collective. The collective also produced vegetables, fruits, peanuts and we also raised pigs. These would be distributed to villagers regularly according to the same distribution schedule as grain was distributed. We also purchased fish, wine, cigarettes collectively with the money earned by the village enterprises, and this was distributed to each family on important occasions like Chinese New Year and other holidays. We got almost all our supplies from the collective.
After the Cultural Revolution years, I went to college and my two sisters who used to work for the village, found jobs in a state-owned factory in the early ’80s. Now the factory has been sold and my two sisters have been unemployed since 1996. My younger sister is still working in the village, as the village cashier now. My village is doing well compared with other villages. Life has changed dramatically in the countryside. I think for most working class people, life has changed for the worse. Even though they may get more money, they have lost benefits like free medical care and free education of the socialist past. They now have to pay for their education. They have to pay for their medical care. Most farmers cannot afford the medical care. If they are sick for a small problem, they just endure the problem. If they are sick for a big problem, they just wait to die. Many of them say they do not want to leave a big debt for their children by going to the hospital. The medical care is very expensive now and it is beyond the reach of most farmers and working class people in urban areas.
Q: Could you talk a little about what the cultural life was like in your village and how that changed?
DH: Before the Cultural Revolution, Chinese performing arts were mostly about talented young men and beautiful ladies, kings, generals and so on. That’s what the Chinese traditional plays were about. During the Cultural Revolution, there was a surge of a new kind of art. Every village at the time had a group of farmer artists and they played instruments, sang revolutionary songs, danced revolutionary dances, and staged revolutionary plays. There was some kind of performance in the village almost every night. These performances became educational tools. Revolutionary ideas spread because of these revolutionary performances. And it was very powerful. But of course today you don’t see that any more in the countryside. But if you go to China today, you can still see older people singing the revolutionary songs in parks and public spaces to entertain themselves.
Q: In the movies that we see about China and the Cultural Revolution, there is a representation of people being picked up and tried by popular tribunals and paraded around town, punished. My question is: where does this image come from, did you hear about things like this in China, how widespread was this?
DH: That image was from the Cultural Revolution years. For a few weeks in the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, many Chinese officials were being criticized on the stage. That was very common. I saw it many times. I would say most government officials went through some of that at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. At the same time, I would argue, many of these people deserved some kind of punishment. They had made mistakes in their work. And because of their mistakes, people suffered. People were looking for ways to air their anger. In the villages, the struggle against village leaders was more gentle and peaceful.
These public struggle sessions to deal with officials who committed crimes and made mistakes were different ways of dealing with these people. After they were struggled with for a day or two, they were allowed to go free. They were taught a lesson by the people. In the U.S. people are sent to prison. I still think this public education during the Cultural Revolution was very effective, not only to educate the village officials, but also everybody else. After the session, they were free. So I don’t think that was a bad practice. I think it was a very good practice.
Q: What about the situation in China now, particularly the economic crisis and how you think that’s working itself out, especially in the rural areas, but more generally?
DH: The Chinese government is faced with a huge challenge today and the Chinese government officials themselves have admitted that on many occasions. Some people estimate that there are 100 incidents involving more than 100 people challenging the government and 300 incidents involving less than 100 challenging the government each day. I read in a document about an incident in Guangdong province where three police officers stopped a car without a license plate and upon further check they found the driver without a driver’s license. But the three people came out the car and yelled that the police are harassing people and about 2,000 people came out. They turned the police car upside down and set it on fire. The government is warning the police to be careful because the tension between the people and the government is very high.
And there are a lot of people in the countryside who are very angry with the township government. I was told by a farmer about an incident in a rural township. The party secretary was taking a nap one day. But about 100 farmers ,who were angry with the township government’s decision to move the market to a different place, went to his bedroom. They actually dragged him by his four limbs into the marketplace and threw him up into the air for a half hour. They didn’t hit him. They just toyed with him for a half hour. In the end the government had to remove him from office because he had become an embarrassment for the government. This happened last year. There was another government official who was beaten by the farmers. The villagers wanted him to take a patient to the hospital. He refused. He said that not everyone could ride in his car. The farmers almost killed him, but the government didn’t punish the people who did it. So I think the government realizes how tense its relationship is with the masses.
In the old days, the Chinese government officials came to the village and worked with the farmers. And today they don’t do that. They come to the village in big cars, only to get money from farmers and to enforce the one child policy… I think the government has a legitimacy crisis. The Chinese government was able to survive the challenges of the Great Leap Forward posed by unprecedented natural disasters and mismanagement by its officials because of the socialist legitimacy. I don’t think it will be able to survive any challenges close to that of the Great Leap Forward.
Q: Could you talk about what happened during the coup in 1976 and also how that whole period was being understood where you were?
DH: I still remember where I was on 9 September 1976. At 4 o’clock that day, I was walking with my friend outside the village when the loudspeaker said there was a very important announcement. And we immediately realized something was wrong. And they said Chairman Mao had passed away. I don’t know how I walked home that day. I remember that everybody around me was crying. Finally I reached home. My father cried all the way home from his factory. When my grandpa died he didn’t cry. He gathered the family together and he said, today our poor people’s sky has fallen and we do not know what life will be like tomorrow. At the time, I thought, in my heart, how could that be possible? We have built the socialist state. How could the poor people’s sky fall just because Chairman Mao died?
It turned out that my father was right. When the Gang of Four was arrested, the Chinese government said the people were really happy. That was not true. In my home town many young people really respected Jiang Qing because of an incident that happened in a neighbouring commune. On Chinese New Year in 1975, the village leader played over the loudspeaker a traditional drama which was criticized during the Cultural Revolution. A young man in the village criticized the village leader for playing that over the loudspeaker. But the village leaders accused him of causing trouble in the village. He called the police and the police took him away. While he was in prison, he wrote a letter to Jiang Qing, and in less than five days, Jiang Qing responded to his letter. Jiang Qing ordered that the person be released. And the village leader was dismissed from office. Young people in my area loved Jiang Qing. When the Gang of Four was arrested a few weeks after Mao died, we knew things were going to be different.
Question: You were saying that the 10 years of the Cultural Revolution were the most exciting of your life. Could you give some examples of that spirit that you felt?
DH: The way that I felt at that time was that I had a strong sense of security. I was not alone in this world. My neighbours, my production team leaders, the village leaders would take care of anybody if they needed help.
In 1998, one of my friends who worked with me committed suicide. When I received the news from my village I cried. The reason I cried was because I felt that if the collective had not been disbanded he would not have died; he would not have committed suicide. And this person was about my age. When he was young, he couldn’t get up early in the morning. So every morning my production team leader told me to go to wake him up. When I went to wake him up the first time, he answered me, and got up. The second day, he said, I’ll get up but he never got up. So I had to drag him up from his bed. The third day his grandmother was very upset that I woke him up every day. She told me that her grandson needed more sleep. But the production team leader said to me: “Do not mind his grandmother. Wake him up. He needs help.” So he came to work with us with my help. He worked every day. He was a very good worker. He was very talented as well. He played the Chinese instrument, the erhu very well and he also painted well. But after the collective was disbanded, nobody went to wake him up anymore. He was able to sleep as much as he wanted. So eventually his wife left him. And by 1996, 1997 he became mentally disturbed. And the last time I saw him was in 1997 when I went back home. I saw him walking naked on the street. He saw me and ran back home. I followed him to his house. I asked him why he walked naked in the streets. He said that life was bad for him. He did not want to live any more. I told him that he had to change his mindset, that he needed to face the challenges. I asked him why he didn’t go back to painting if he could not do anything else. I told him that I would be in the village for another 10 days, and I would like to buy a painting from him. He promised that he would do it. But the next day, he came to see me. He said that he could not do it now. He told me that he would do it for me the next year. I told him that it was him that I was interested in not the painting. I wanted to see him stand up and take control of his life. But three months after I left the village, he committed suicide. He hung himself. When I learned of this news from my younger sister, I cried very hard. I felt that if the collective were not disbanded, he did not need to commit suicide. The community was no longer there. Your friends and your neighbours became competitors and strangers to you. The security network had been taken away. For Americans you’re used to this kind of competition. But for Chinese farmers who lived under the socialist system before, the change was too dramatic for many people.
Q: The Cultural Revolution sent shock waves around the world. In your village, how much were you aware of the international situation, the influence this was having internationally?
DH: At that time when I was in the village, I really felt we were part of the international revolution. We were young and we were part of a big picture. I remember in 1971 there was a huge drought in our area. The county government held a huge rally in the marketplace. At the rally, government leaders and representatives of farmers and workers said that we were fighting this drought not just for ourselves. We were fighting this in support of the Vietnamese people’s fight against U.S. imperialism. We were fighting this drought to support oppressed people in Africa and so on. After the rally, everybody in our school wrote a pledge to join the fight against the drought. The school was closed for two weeks. We went back to the village to fight the drought with the villagers for two weeks. Everybody worked very hard. I felt that I was doing something significant to help the revolution. At that time I didn’t really understand what it meant. It was standard language. I believed what we were told by the government that we had friends all over the world. After the Cultural Revolution was over, the Chinese elite told us that it was government propaganda. But it was not simply propaganda. I found this out when I studied in Singapore. When Mao died in 1976, China did not have diplomatic relations with Singapore. So the branch bank of Bank of China decided to hold a memorial service for Mao for three days. Ordinary Singaporeans and seaman from all over the world came to show their respect for Mao day and night. The line was so long, the staff at the Bank of China had to extend the memorial service from three days to ten. I realized then that our fight in China was connected with the struggle of oppressed people all over the world.
Q: I want to step back to your experience in the Cultural Revolution. You were able to go to school, you grew up and became an educated youth in the countryside, and yet there was this political campaign that was going on for 10 years. How did this intersect with you, how much were you continuing to follow it?
Dongping Han: My whole value system was changed very dramatically. Before the Cultural Revolution, my father never allowed me to talk back to him; that’s how the Chinese family was. He never allowed me to talk back to him. Whenever there were guests in the house I was never allowed to say a word. But during the Cultural Revolution years that changed. I said, “Chairman Mao said I can talk back to you!” But many people in the U.S. country think that the revolutionary campaign is an interruption of life. No. The revolution did not disrupt most people’s lives, particularly in the village. During the day most work continues, and at night people went out to the streets and there was a lot of debate; different groups debate in the streets. My cousin and I went to shops at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution to propagate Mao’s ideas. The government-owned shops extended their hours until 10 at night at the time. So we went to the shops to read Mao’s teachings and perform the plays, and so on. We loved that.
Maybe I can give you an example to illustrate the change. Before the Cultural Revolution years, people in my area never gave blood to anybody. If you needed a blood transfusion, you went to your family: your wife, your father or your brothers. People thought that if you gave blood to another person, you would lose your own vitality in life. But one day, one of my colleagues was sick and needed a blood transfusion. Most of the factory workers were working in fields harvesting. It was a busy time in the village. Twenty young people who were working in the village went to the hospital. The nurses checked our blood types. I was the only person who qualified to give the blood. I knew at the time any one of the 20 people would give their blood to save my colleague. The village party secretary asked me what to do. I said that we needed to save the patient. They took more than 700 cc from me and after that I couldn’t walk and they had to take me home in a wheelbarrow. And the next morning I woke up and my mom and my two aunts were all crying. They actually cried the whole night. They thought I wouldn’t be able to get married, nobody would marry me. But life changed, and it wasn’t just me. All the people who went to the hospital that day would have happily given blood to that person that day.
Whenever there was a storm, even at midnight people would get up to cover the collective crops. If it snowed we would get up to clean the streets. We did not have bulldozers. Everybody would get out to clean the streets. Another important change in the rural life was that there were almost no crimes during the Cultural Revolution years. For 10 years, we did not have any crime in the village. In my commune of 50,000 people, I did not hear of any serious crime for 10 years. But now, crime has become so common in China.
Q: Could you compare your daily life during the Cultural Revolution to what the daily life would have been like for your grandparents before 1949?
DH: The reason why my father was so supportive of the Communist Party was that he had to work 18 hours a day. He had to pick up the capitalists′ night soil and did household chores beside long hours of work in the workshop. When the communists came to power, the workday became eight hours, so my father’s life changed for the better under socialism. My father used to believe in Buddhism. After the communists came to power, he no longer believed it any more. On the Chinese New Year, my mom always asked to kowtow to the gods of the family. My father would always tell me not to do it. He was told that he was suffering because he did something wrong in the previous life. He changed his previous life, but his life suddenly changed for the better with the Communist Party in power.
Both my father and my mom begged before 1949, and were hungry all the time. Both my grandmothers died in their 30s in 1944, without any medical care. But ever since I could remember, I never felt hungry. I always had enough to eat. My father never bought any toys for me when I was young. I often compare my childhood with my son’s in the U.S. At the time, we had a lot of kids in the neighbourhood to play with and we made toys for ourselves. We played a lot of games ourselves. We worked on the collective farm during the summer, spring and fall. In winter we played popular games in the streets when there was nothing to do in the fields. And I always ask my son which childhood is better. Of course it’s very hard for him to imagine. But I strongly believe that my childhood was much more healthy, much more creative than that of my son who has nothing else but toys and video games. We had community, and we learned how to interact with one another; we learned how to build up leadership skills and things like that. And my son didn’t have those skills. When I first came to the U.S, I had a class on the Cultural Revolution. And the professor said that Cultural Revolution education was a disaster, and most students in the class agreed with him. In the end, I told the class that I was a product of the Cultural Revolution education. I challenged the whole class to a competition with me to see who is better educated. Nobody was willing to take on the challenge.
by Kobad Ghandy
(Now that the Government has finally struck down the Vedanta mining project in Orissa, senior Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy, presently under arrest inside Delhi’s Tihar jail, writes about how mining giants are making obscene amounts of money at the cost of the poor while even the State fails to make any gains. we thank the OPEN Magazine for such a relevant article. — Editor)
“Our defeat was always implicit in the victory of others; our wealth has always generated our poverty by nourishing the prosperity of others—the empires and their native overseers. In the colonial and neo-colonial alchemy, gold changes into scrap metal and food into poison.”
— Eduardo Galeano in Open Veins of Latin America
It is ironic — the richer the land the poorer its people: Eduardo Galeano, in his above mentioned book said: “The Indians (local inhabitants) have suffered, and continue to suffer, the curse of their own wealth; that is the drama of all Latin America”.
In India too, the richest states of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh are amongst the poorest in the country. Of course, unlike two centuries back in Latin America they no longer exterminate the local population. They induce slow death through starvation, disease and lack of livelihood. Development for some has always been at the cost of ‘development’ for the many.
Tantalum, a necessary ingredient of computers, cell phones, ipods, and so on, is to a large extent, extracted cheaply from Congo which has one-fifth of the world’s deposits. But to extract that (together with gold and tin) MNCs have tied up with warring warlords which has taken a toll of 5.4 million lives since April 2007. Killings continue at the rate of 45,000 per month and Congo has become the world capital of rape, torture and mutilation.
Yes, computers are huge development, but for the people of Congo what does it all mean? Can the super profits of the mining companies and computer manufacturers be slightly reducd so that the people of Congo share in the wealth creation? Continue reading