A Maoist utopia emerges online
A bookshop manager leading a campaign to defend the legacies of Mao Zedong claims his movement has won significant political momentum from its recent petition calling for two scholars to be charged with sedition.
The petition, organised by the website Utopia, had collected more than 40,000 signatures by the time it was sent to the National People's Congress on June 15, says Fan Jinggang, co-ordinator of Utopia's campaign against 82-year-old economist Mao Yushi and 75-year-old historian Xin Zilin, a retired People's Liberation Army officer.
'The citizens' indictment campaign is now complete, but our condemnation of the nation's traitors will go on,' Fan said.
He said his campaign would continue to pass on its message like a torch in the darkness.
Fan says Mao Yushi and Xin's interpretations of Mao Zedong's campaigns from the 1950s to the 1970s, including the Cultural Revolution, were slanderous, and the pair deserved the title of han jian, or national traitors.
He said the most high-profile signatures obtained so far were those of Liu Siqi, widow of Mao Anying, Mao's son who died during the Korean war; Ma Bin, former vice-minister for the metallurgical industry; and Kong Qingdong, a professor at Peking University.
Fan declines to identify Utopia's financial backers. It is rife in the foreign media that its benefactor is Deng Liqun, a 95-year-old ideologue who came to prominence in the 1980s. Fan says Utopia is supported by his Utopia bookstore's revenues and online donations.
The website at www.wyzxsx.com is probably the best-known resource for neo-Maoist and neo-Marxist thinking on the mainland today. The Utopia web forum also hosts vehement forums and seminars on current political affairs.
Utopia's campaign against the scholars was triggered in April by Mao Yushi's review of Xin's book on Mao Zedong, called The Fall of the Red Sun, published on the economics information website Caing.com. The 5,000 character review - it can no longer be read on Caing.com, but it is widely available online - is a damning account of Mao Zedong's policies.
'He is not a god, and he will be removed from the altar, divested of all the myth that used to shroud him and receive a just evaluation as an ordinary man,' Mao Yushi wrote.
Xin said last month that he believed that the neo-Maoists' primary target was to overturn an alleged Politburo decision, said to have been made in December, to drop the use of the phrase 'Mao Zedong thought' in party documents.
Fan insists such a decision has never been made, calling it a rumour started by the Hong Kong-based Cheng Ming magazine. Xin maintains the order was made.
Fan said the 'wholesale negation of the Cultural Revolution is metaphysics [or simply put, rigid thinking]. You should take a second look at the ideological and spiritual side of it to discover its core value.'
Despite its nostalgia for political ideologies of more than 50 years ago, there is a modern touch to Fan's efforts - he claims to have mobilised a grass-roots political movement primarily by using the internet. According to the statistics site Alexa.com, Utopia's website is ranked 894th by volume of online traffic in China.
Critics say that, as a relatively young man in his 30s, Fan has no direct experience of the Red Guards' fury during the Cultural Revolution, which might explain his romanticism for ideologies from that period.
Fan said he had been interested in Marxist theories since he was in school. Although he studied Western economics at university, he quickly lost interest. He believed only Marxism could solve social problems.
Fan is keen to tell the public that market reform is bad on two levels - by selling national interests to Western capital and by creating an elite class that deprives the masses of their rights. He added 'the logic of capital' must be brought under control, and led by public and collective, rather than private, ownership.
He said the working class should be the masters of state-owned factories, and companies should be run through democratic management based on workers' participation.
Fan is unfazed by online criticism that his beliefs are a throwback to the Cultural Revolution, which many of Utopia's visitors would like to see reinstated anyway, 'to do away with the misery of the people'.
As one article on Utopia said: 'As the leftists are commemorating the Cultural Revolution, and the rightists are still condemning it, their debate has already placed China in a second Cultural Revolution,' if only by resurrecting the old slogans.