There is an Orwellian core in China’s march from democracy to dictatorship as the ruling Communist Party readies the country’s polity to enable current President Xi Jinping to rule eternally. The constitutional restriction limiting the term of an incumbent president and vice-president to just two terms will be removed, so Xi could lead forever.
George Orwell in his books 1984 and Animal Farm pictured a society where a one-man dictatorship with complete and comprehensive control over all media shuts out all opinions other than what the dictator wants and everyone bows down to this official opinion as the truth, the only truth.
So the war department is called Peace, the propaganda department is named Truth and so on. As everyone is under surveillance, bowing to the Big Brother whenever his picture is flashed on TV becomes a habit.
For most of us brought up in a plural environment where ideas are challenged by other ideas and every idea from atheism to multiple Gods and even devils compete for mankind’s acceptance, this Orwellian construct appears too convoluted to be true.
But just look at what is happening in Communist China as the only political formation allowed to exist launches the move to give Xi an indefinite term in office. Of course there may be elections that will enthusiastically announce that Xi was re-elected with 99 per cent votes in his favour—even 109 per cent. If you wonder how there could be 109 per cent votes in one’s favour, the reply was given in some older dictatorships: “The people were so fond of the incumbent (Stalin, Mugabe, etc.) that many voted twice to display their loyalty”.
Xi’s propaganda department (in Orwellian terms the Truth department) is wiping out all comments critical of the Communist Party’s move. The claim of the only party allowed to function in the nation is that “people of China” wanted this step to give the president an indefinite term in office!
A day before the “people of China” had the opportunity to express their view on social media, the controlled newspapers and TV channels claimed the ruling party’s centralised governance system was benefiting the country and therefore the central person needed to remain in power perpetually to enable the system to succeed. And what did “people” say when they got the opportunity?
“We are going to become North Korea” where one family regime had prevailed for over three generations with complete elimination of all other views and all other aspirants for power. A news report from Beijing last Sunday said: “Despite (Xi’s) popularity the move (to remove the limit to his term in office) by the ruling party was roundly criticised in China”, many comparing the country to its communist neighbour North Korea. News reports from Beijing quoted some of the mocking comments of the people. No wonder social media is now getting cleaned up.
With China pursuing a hegemonic policy towards its South Asian and South East Asian neighbours, naturally the Xi dictatorship would continue to make this policy more aggressive and hold out before the Chinese people their return to global leadership by co-operating with this one-party, one- man dictatorship.
More particularly this is an opportunity for India to reveal how the present New Delhi policy of teaming up with America and building up a US-Japan-Australia group to contain China’s global drive was very timely and needed to be pursued under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
It would be interesting to watch what the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has to say on this development. Perhaps it would welcome this step; for the one reason that Marx’s political theory supports an indefinite period of dictatorship before the “withering away of the state begins”.
But the reality in Soviet Russia and all other countries that came under communism was different. The dictatorship no doubt brought some hegemony and some achievements in terms of global power but the people remained poor and began to feel that freedom was far preferable to the “benefits” of dictatorships.
The result was that these one-party dictatorships began to collapse like nine pins one by one till the entire East Europe was cleansed of communism.One important political lesson of Beijing’s move from political authoritarianism and economic liberalism (including free enterprise, stock market and foreign capital) is that under Marxism such two rail policy cannot take a country far.
Many Marxists had even claimed that the political authoritarianism and economic liberalism will gradually enable return to all-round freedom for the Chinese. This has not happened.In West Bengal the Communists got exposed within 35 years. In Kerala even within two years of their power people are shocked at the level of violence and murders communists are freely using to consolidate themselves after coming to power through free elections.
The party that was once a force to reckon with in Mumbai, Andhra, Punjab, Bihar, etc., is now restricted to only three states. In the early 20th century Marx was the God that promised a happy tomorrow to many political activists and dreamers. In the 21st century, knowing how the forces of democracy have wiped Marx out of the global reckoning, the Communists are clutching to a return to dictatorship as their last straw from drowning in the waters of history.
Remember it was Lenin who forecast that capitalists would end up in the wastebaskets of history; the present generation may still live to see in those baskets the Marxist leaders of India alongside Xi and Stalin and Mao!
Former Rajya Sabha member and Delhi-based commentator on social and political issues