China’s paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping has finally decided that Maoist radicals are no longer the major threat to the communist party’s rule — the target is now western political and cultural ideas.
The country’s official press revealed the new campaign last week, effectively ending a five-year campaign waged by Deng and his disciples against “Leftism”.
leftism, Deng told a recent party meeting is now less dangerous than “Rightism”.
The new political catch-phrase in China is “spiritual pollution”, a term encompassing all ideas, trends and fashions which the communist party considers to be threatening, from pornography to anti-socialist thinking.
“spiritual pollution” must be rooted out, struggled against and stopped, the party’s political writers are suddenly saying over and over again.
They are not always very specific about what precisely constitutes “spiritual pollution”, but the rash of articles in the official press over the past week indicates deng is particularly concerned about increasing criticism of socialism, and literature which ignores the party’s cultural guidelines.
one newspaper warned university students as part of the campaign that they were banned from wearing “weird clothes”, or from growing beards. so-called “pornographic” music and books are also out.
an official shanghai newspaper, complained that one magazine which published “spiritually polluting” romance stories was selling 200,000 copies per issue in the city.
other signs of the trend, said one paper, were a tendency to emphasise money above all else, the publication of increasing amounts of “rubbish” such as detective and kung fu novels, and “pornographic” shows staged by many official cultural troupes.
red flag, the party’s theoretical journal, charged that too much literature dwelt on errors in socialism, and said such writings were encouraging people to lose faith in the leadership of the communist party.
“some people are picking up ideas from foreign countries in the name of studying the studying there, and are treating bourgeouis democracy, freedom and humanism as the answer to the world’s problems,” it said.
There is widespread cycnicism amongst many of China’s youth regarding politics in general and socialism in particular, and those who look about for some alternative usually fix on the western ideals of democracy and freedom.
since China’s cuatious opening to the west in 1979, all sorts of “subversive” ideas and “decadent” influences have filtered into the country in spite of the communist party’s efforts to keep them out.
The rot has set in at all levels of society, including the ideological heart of the communist party, by the party’s own admission.
one of deng’s closest allies said last week that some party ideologicial workers were “spreading anti-marxist ideas in the newspapers, and in the classrooms,” and indicated the party’s own cadre schools were particularly in need of a clean-out.
Inevitably, the cultural field is feeling the chill wind most as a result of this campaign against “spiritual pollution”, and writers, playwrights, variety show managers, and film directors will have to be very careful over the next few months.
Ironically, many of the ideas the communist party is now trying to stifle had their first public hearing in China in 1979 on Peking’s famous democracy wall, a forum which was closed down after about a year.
The wall itself is now covered in official advertising billboards, but the ideas that it spawned have developed a life of their own and are obviously proving difficult to overcome.