The ancient Greeks determined the earth was round and since 500BC philosophers and scientists have agreed it was either round or a sphere. If either one is true, as the socialists move further to the left and the rightists further to the right they will meet somewhere. When that happens history will repeat itself and they all will stand around a large fire watching the books burn.
In 1919, Anton Drexler formed the German Workers’ Party and the following year it was renamed the National Socialist German Workers’ Party or just the Nazi Party. The use of the words Socialist and Workers was to attract the support of the working class in Germany.
In 1921, Adolf Hitler took control of the Party whose political platform included scrapping the Treaty of Versailles, the expansion of German territory and persecution of Jewish and other “non-German” people. On January 30, 1933 Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany and quickly increased the Nazi Party’s influence in the German parliament. In late February 1933, Nazi supporters set fire to the Reichstag in Berlin, putting the blame on their political opponents, enabling Hitler to assume emergency powers and win the elections in March.
On March 23, 1933, the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, which “enabled” Hitler’s government to issue decrees independently of the Reichstag and the presidency; Hitler in effect assumed dictatorial powers.
In July 1933, Hitler declared the Nazi Party to be the only political party in Germany, and in 1934 crushed the Nazi Party’s left, or socialist-oriented, wing… Hitler’s word was the supreme and undisputed command in the party… and… The party came to control virtually all political, social, and cultural activities in Germany. Under Hitler, the Nazi Party was a right wing, authoritarian dictatorship.
To solidify the Nazi Party’s power and control over the German people, its supporters embarked on a campaign to wipe out the old thinking. On May 10, 1933, students from the National Socialist Student Union and their professors at the Friedrich-Wilhelms Universitat (now Humboldt University) in Berlin burned over 20,000 books, from the university’s library, in front of the library building in the Kaiser Franz Josef Platz (now Bebelplatz) near St Hedwig’s Cathedral. Josef Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister, said to the crowd: The old goes up in flames, the new shall be fashioned from the flame in our hearts. Similar book burning fires were held across Germany where many thousands of books were burned because they were “un- German” and had “old ideas and ideals.”
The authors of the burned books included: Einstein, Freud, Hemingway, Keller, Dos Passos, London, Mann, Marx, Proust, Remarque, Sinclair, Wells, Wolff and Zola.
Bebelplatz is now the site of a monument to the book burning incident. The unique monument is an underground room of empty bookshelves, covered by a glass panel near the middle of Bebelplatz, in front of the old university library, now the Faculty of Law building.
Also, in 1933 the Nazis established the Hitler youth movement (Hitler Jugend) to educate and train young German males aged between 13 and 18 in the Nazi ideology. All German boys were “expected” to join the Hitler Jugend and read Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), which outlined his fanatical ideas.
In 1949 Mao Tsetung took control of China and renamed it The People’s Republic of China to give the illusion China was a “Republic.” Like Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, the Chinese Communist Government was an authoritarian dictatorship.
In 1964 Mao’s “thoughts” were published in a small book with a bright red cover – Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung or more commonly known as The Little Red Book. It was compulsory reading for all Chinese and recommended reading for all visitors to China.
The opening sentence in Chapter 1 sets the tone for the rest of the book: The force at the core leading our cause forward is the Chinese Communist Party. The theoretical basis guiding our thinking is Marxism-Leninism. It was extracted from Mao’s opening address at the First Session of the First National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China – September 11, 1954.
Under Chairman Mao, the aim of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was to attack the four “olds” – old ideas, old culture, old customs and old habits – and bring education, art and literature into line with Communist ideology. Feudal, bourgeois and anti-Communist ideals were destroyed, business owners were stripped of their large factories and properties, and millions of educated Chinese were sent to the country to work in the communes. Churches and museums were looted, their antiques, art and literature destroyed, statues of the “old” were torn down and books that didn’t follow the Communist Party’s ideology were burned. Chinese students were recruited into the paramilitary Red Guards to rid the country of its old culture and purge the government and population of any bourgeois thinking.
During the Cultural Revolution photography was forbidden. Under Deng Xiaoping photography was “discouraged” if the subjects were sensitive – demonstrations, protests, military activity, government buildings and “old China.” It was worth the risk to preserve some unique images.
History is repeating itself yet again. Following on from Mao Tsetung’s Little Red Book, new technology is being used to educate Communist Party members and the Chinese people. Xi Jinping’s ideology is available on a free smartphone App. It is officially called Studying Great Nation, Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the new Era and commonly known as The Little Red App.
Downloading the App is mandatory for all Party Members and encouraged for others so not surprisingly it is the most popular smartphone App in China. Party members are required to use the App daily to learn Xi’s thoughts, read state media news and take online courses. They reportedly have adopted a western idea and earn bonus points by reading the news articles, watching the videos and answering questions on the App – one point for logging in daily, one point for reading an article or watching a video and a bonus point for every four minutes they read or every five minutes they watch a video. Perhaps this explains why some Chinese pedestrians walk carelessly across busy roads while staring intently at their smartphones – they are earning points.
Some analysts have compared China’s absorption of Hong Kong to Nazi Germany’s “Anschluss” – the annexation of Austria. In 1933, the Hitler Government passed an “enabling act” to introduce complete control over the German people – the economy, media, culture and education – and in 1938 it was extended to all countries occupied by Germany. The Nazis used the term “Gleichshaltung” (co-ordination) to describe the process, others called it “consolidation” of the Nazi doctrine or “Nazification”. In 1997, when China signed the agreement with the United Kingdom for the return of Hong Kong they called it “one country, two systems” and undertook to not impose China’s socialist system on Hong Kong for 50 years. Twenty-three years later, in 2020, China introduced its “anti-sedition” law and established a national security agency in Hong Kong to enforce the law which targets separatism, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. It is aimed at all people in Hong Kong and elsewhere who criticize China’s government, and will be interpreted by China’s National People’s Congress.
During Deng’s rule, officials described China’s government as socialism with Chinese characteristics. Or as one official said in 1979: We have been Chinese for over 3,000 years and Communists for only thirty years. It is now 71 years and counting.
Image Credit: all of the photos within this story were taken by the author, Ken Peacock.