Monday, December 11, 2006

The Central Propaganda Department mostly produces objects of widespread ridicule, but once in a while, they produce something that strikes a deep cord with Chinese officials and also just your ordinary Chinese Communist Party members, including the highly educated one. The new "Think of Danger While Living in Safety: the Historical Lesson of the Demise of the CPSU" (居安思危——苏共亡党的历史教训) is just such a media event. Below is an article about it, and you can see the full transcript of the DVD, which I will definitely try to score in China next time, is available at:


The Australian

DVDs tell faithful how to escape Russia's fate
Rowan Callick, China correspondent
11 December 2006

THE 70 million members of the Chinese Communist Party have all been watching a series of eight DVDs - not Yes, Minister, but Think of Danger While Living in Safety: The Lessons From the Collapse of the Soviet Union Communist Party.

The glossily produced programs, made by top broadcasters at China Central TV under the guidance of Li Shenming, vice-president of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, are marked never to be shown to the general public, but The Australian obtained a set.

Party members are required not only to view all eight shows, but to write their responses. Some of these have already been posted on party websites.

When the Russian party started to lose its grip and the Soviet Union began to disintegrate in 1989, the Chinese party was undergoing turmoil of its own - most dramatically with the Tiananmen demonstration and the brutal response.

Now, in calmer times and with economic success framing the run-up to the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, the party is marking its 85th anniversary by looking back to see where its Soviet older comrade went wrong - and forward in anticipation of staying in power for at least another 85years.

The programs state that despite severe disagreements between the parties, "deep in the hearts of Chinese communists and the Chinese people, there remains a strong emotional link with Lenin and with the home of the October Revolution".

When Joseph Stalin died in 1953, they record, Mao Zedong wept loudly at the Soviet embassy in Beijing.

"Through the passage of time, people realise more and more deeply that the mistakes of Stalin cannot negate his role as a great proletarian revolutionary and Marxist," the programs say.

The thinly coded message for Chinese viewers: for Stalin, read Mao.

Allow his exalted status to be undermined, and the party's prestige and authority will also be crucially damaged.

The Khrushchev era that followed is denigrated by the programs because, crucially, it denied the role of Stalin and thus "denied the history of the Soviet Union, which in turn triggered severe problems".

Thus the shows underline the need for the Chinese party to retain its rigid insistence on the correct line being portrayed in historical essays, books, TV and films.

Young Soviet party members who grew up in this post-Stalin atmosphere lacked familiarity with the party's traditions, and"it was they who went on to bury theparty".

Stalin was wrongly seen as the source of all sins, "in spite of the glories of socialism".

Enter the real villain.

The programs place most of the blame on Mikhail Gorbachev for "the extinction of the party, which must mean the extinction of the country" after 74 years in power. By extension, the same equation may thus be applied to China: the end of the party's rule - 57 years so far - will mean the fragmentation and collapse of the country.

The party presentation says: "Collaborating with nationalists, the so-called democrats within the party sped its split and that of the Soviet Union encouraged by concepts advocated by Gorbachev, including democratisation, openness and diversity of public opinion."

On Christmas Day 1991, it says, "the flag with the hammer and sickle, deeply loved by generations of people in the Soviet Union and around the world, sunk in the cold winter wind".

The "disastrous results" of the ensuing "shock therapy prescribed by the Americans" included a 52 per cent collapse of economic output over a decade, 5000 per cent inflation, and average life expectancy cut by four years.

The programs cite a survey by the BBC - whose website is barred in China - that made Karl Marx the leading thinker of the last millennium, followed by Albert Einstein. "This shows that many people believe we still need Marx, as natural science needs Einstein's theories."

Gorbachev "accepted the capitalist view of the world, which turned him into a complete traitor to socialism and communism", and his "so-called openness" - glasnost - opened the country to anti-communist forces, Lenin becoming branded "a hooligan".

The Chinese shows are emphatic about the importance of keeping control of the media. Gorbachev, they say, "stopped interference of Western broadcasts to Russia and allowed more than 20 Western publications to be imported".

Academics, too, became fighters for "anti-totalitarianism", the programs say: "Even though they were nourished for years by the party, they became its tomb diggers."

The core reason for the disaster is that the party turned its back on Marxism and Leninism. "When strong ideology that unites the hearts of the people and party members is thrown away, can that party survive?"

Personal style was another factor. "Stalin always lived simply, and when he died, people found only four suits in his wardrobe, two civilian and two military." Gradually corruption prevailed, with "party internal democracy and supervision disappearing", starting with the allegedly self-regarding Nikita Khrushchev and culminating in the demonic Gorbachev, "atwo-faced person only good at playing tricks".

Not long before the Soviet Union collapsed, 85 per cent of people said in a survey that the party principally represented only the cadres and bureaucrats - a poll question that might, by implication, throw up an interesting response in China as well.

Another strategy through which the West undermined the USSR was the concept of human rights, "used to interfere in its domestic affairs".

The Russian people, the series concludes, are rethinking what happened, and two-thirds of those surveyed now regret the fall of the Soviet Union. "When Vladimir Putin stepped in, he re-established pride in the country."

The party history was published again by the education ministry, many books praising Stalin were released, and his statues were re-erected.

"Of course, the renaissance of Russia still has a long way to go. But we firmly believe that with its collapse as a rare negative lesson, human history must have a colourful new spring."

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