Archive for January, 2018

The current discussion regarding Aadhaar, both in the Supreme Court as well as in the media, has focussed on the questions of privacy, State surveillance of individuals, and the security of data. All these are valid objections, and any one of these would be sufficient ground to oppose such a system. However, to limit the discussion to these aspects misses the crucial point. Namely, that Aadhaar is intended as an instrument of control not of a small minority, but of the vast majority. It does this indirectly.

Supporters of the official line mock fears of Aadhaar as the worries of a tiny segment (one particularly puerile piece attributed opposition to Aadhaar to “activists of the upper crust, upper class, wine ‘n cheese, Netflix-watching social media elite – mostly of the Left”). The poor, they claim, have no objection, since they are not worried about their privacy; and at any rate why would the Government try to monitor 134 crore citizens? They would only monitor a handful of them, who can be monitored even without Aadhaar. Thus runs the argument. (more…)

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The following interview with Fred Engst was conducted by Onurcan Ülker on April 7, 2017, at Beijing. It provides very significant insights into the building of socialism in China on the basis of both direct experience and deep reflection on the questions involved. — RUPE

Onurcan Ülker: Could you please start with introducing yourself?

Fred Engst (Yang Heping): I was born in Beijing in 1952 and raised in China’s ancient capital, Xi’an. I came back to Beijing when our family got transferred in 1966, before the Cultural Revolution started. I spent first twenty some years of my life in China—mostly in Xi’an—and the last eight years of that time was in Beijing during the peak of the Cultural Revolution; but Beijing was not as chaotic as other places at that time. After the middle school, I spent five years working in a factory together with my classmates. Some other classmates of mine went to the countryside and I also wanted to go with them, but I was not allowed because I was a foreigner. Later, after I tried, my brother and sister were able to go. Then I went to the U.S. in 1974 and spent another thirty some years there. But I came back often: I spent the whole year here in 1988 right before the events in Beijing in 1989. Then I spent another year, 2000, to teach here. In between, I also came back quite often to see my parents and my classmates. In the end, I decided to move back to China in 2007. Since then I’ve been teaching and doing my research here. My lifelong pursuit is understanding politics and economics of Mao’s period. In this sense, I can say it has been most fruitful in last ten years.

Fred Engst

Fred Engst

The real question: How to build a new, socialist society?

OÜ: So, you spent quite a lot of time in Maoist China. Western critics of Maoism usually accuse it of over-politicizing the people and therefore, consistently undermining stability and institutionalization. How was the daily life of ordinary people in Maoist China? Did the so-called “over-politicization” of masses really create a sort of chaos?

FE: Well, that is a loaded question. It comes down to: do you justify the oppression or do you try to overcome the oppression? In other words, the problem is: do you want to overthrow the old oppressors to become a new oppressor or completely eliminate the system of oppression?


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