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To many, the unprecedented crackdown and detention of over 1000 activists, dissidents, even regular people, at the G20 Summit in Toronto seemed to express the emergence of a ‘police state’ in Canada. For others, it was unbelievable that this could happen ‘here,’ that things like this only happened elsewhere, in ‘other’ places, like in third world countries or under military dictatorships.
Some Canadians may recall the internment of over 9000 ‘enemy aliens’ during World War I – mostly the Ukrainians who were reduced to slave-like labour, working under the barrel of a gun, clearing, draining, and cultivating new lands for more worthy settlers. Many more will also remember the dispossession and internment of some 22,000 Japanese Canadians during World War II. However, ceremonial apologies have rendered these events regrettable things of the past and have nothing to do with today, right? Wrong.
[This article was published by Revolutionary Frontlines and details the struggles of contemporary Maoist activists in China. – RI Ed.]
[Update: On October 20 Zhao was sentenced to three years in jail for “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order”]
The legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party has been challenged from both the Right and the Left. These challenges have become more open and vocal. The Right has been pushing for political reform that will change China’s Constitution to allow a multi-party Western style democracy. This is the movement behind the 08 Charter. Liu Xiao Bo, who was recently given the Nobel Peace Prize, is one of the leaders of this movement.
The Left has rallied to support Mao Zedong Thought. The growing number of memorials held in September in many parts of the country on the 34th anniversary of Mao’s death demonstrated their strength. In these memorials the masses and their leaders demanded that Yuan Teng-fei be stripped of his Party membership. Yuan has been openly denouncing the Chinese Communist Party, socialism, and viciously attaching Chairman Mao. The Communist Party is trying to find a way out through some kind of political reform. The arrest and recent trial of Zhao Dong-min has led to support from the Left and has further intensified the crisis faced by the Communist Party.
Zhao Dong-min is a Communist Party member and has a law degree from a corresponding school (of the Party School) in Shaanxi. Before his arrest in August 2009 he worked for many years providing legal services to many workers to resolve issues such as unpaid pensions and loss of other benefits. He did this as a volunteer without any compensation. Zhao also served as the temporary coordinator of the Mao Zedong Thought Study Group in Xian, Shaanxi until his arrest.
Over the past few months, the government has poured tens of thousands of heavily armed paramilitary troops into the forest. The Maoists responded with a series of aggressive attacks and ambushes. More than 200 policemen have been killed. The bodies keep coming out of the forest. Slain policemen wrapped in the national flag, slain Maoists, displayed like hunter’s trophies, their wrists and ankles lashed to bamboo poles; bullet-ridden bodies, bodies that don’t look human any more, mutilated in ambushes, beheadings and summary executions. Of the bodies being buried in the forest, we have no news. The theatre of war has been cordoned off, closed to activists and journalists. So there are no body counts.On 6 April 2010, in its biggest strike ever, in Dantewada the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) ambushed a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) company and killed 76 policemen. The party issued a coldly triumphant statement. Television milked the tragedy for everything it was worth. The nation was called upon to condemn the killing. Many of us were not prepared to – not because we celebrate killing, nor because we are all Maoists, but because we have thorny, knotty views about Operation Green Hunt. For refusing to buy shares in the rapidly growing condemnation industry, we were branded “terrorist sympathisers” and had our photographs flashed repeatedly on TV like wanted criminals. What was a CRPF contingent doing, patrolling tribal villages with 21 AK-47 rifles, 38 INSAS rifles, seven self-loading rifles, six light machine-guns, one Sten gun and one two-inch mortar? To ask that question almost amounted to an act of treason.
Days after the ambush, I ran into two paramilitary commandos chatting to a bunch of drivers in a Delhi car park. They were waiting for their VIP to emerge from some restaurant or health club or hotel. Their view on what is going on involved neither grief nor patriotism. It was simple accounting. A balance sheet. They were talking about how many lakhs of rupees in bribes it takes for a man to get a job in the paramilitary forces, and how most families incur huge debts to pay that bribe. That debt can never be repaid by the pathetic wages paid to a jawan, for example. The only way to repay it is to do what policemen in India do – blackmail and threaten people, run protection rackets, demand payoffs, do dirty deals. (In the case of Dantewada, loot villagers, steal cash and jewellery.) But if the man dies an untimely death, it leaves the families hugely in debt. The anger of the men in the car park was directed at the government and senior police officers who make fortunes from bribes and then so casually send young men to their death. They knew that the handsome compensation that was announced for the dead in the 6 April attack was just to blunt the impact of the scandal. It was never going to be standard practice for every policeman who dies in this sordid war. Continue reading “Arundhati Roy: The crisis of Indian democracy (part 2)”