Billet d'Olympia Lui
Wang Ruoshui (1926-2002),"Discussing the Problem of Alienation" (“谈谈异化问题”/ Tantan yihua wenti) : 新闻战线 Xinwen Zhanxian (Journalism front line) 8 (1980) 8-11.
The author Wang Ruoshui was a 20th century journalist and philosopher. He started his career when he converted to Marxism and joined the CCP in the late 1940s, before they gained political power in China. In 1950, he joined the official newspaper of the CCP, People’s Daily, and became editor of the theory section. He was a strong Maoist at the time, and was involved with the campaigns. But in the late 1970s, upon seeing the damages and the disastrous results, he condemned the Cultural Revolution and the Cult of Mao. Naturally, Wang lost his job at the newspaper and was later expelled from the CCP in 1987. He criticised the regime and was no longer allowed to publish in China. Wang Ruoshui was born in Shanghai in 1926 and died in Boston, Massachusetts in 2002, where his wife was a fellow at Harvard.
"Discussing the Problem of Alienation" was a lecture given by Wang for the journalism study class at People’s Daily in June 1980, but since it received a lot of interest, it was later published as a paper in order to reach more people. This lecture was given during the period of his career where he started condemning the revolution and the Cult of Mao.
In this lecture, Wang Ruoshui tries to show that alienation, an idea introduced by Marx at an early age, was present and was a problem in Mao’s regime, as it continues to be an unresolved issue. His argument is supported by theories by famous thinkers and philosophers (Marx, Engels, Hegel and Feuerbach), and he also quotes Mao Zedong a few times.
Wang explains alienation and the different forms of it pertinent to his argument (intellectual, political and economic alienation). He shows that Mao’s leadership consists of these 3 different and dangerous forms of alienation. When speaking of intellectual alienation, he demonstrates it by arguing that the 4 catch-phrases of the Cultural Revolution (i.e. think of Chairman Mao in everything, do everything for Chairman Mao, serve Chairman Mao in everything, and follow Chairman Mao in everything) are very contradictory to true leadership, because a leader should be doing those things for the people, not the other way around. This inversion of roles and power is the alienation of Mao. When explaining political alienation through Engels, he explains that authorities in a work place are given by the people and are supposed to protect and be for the good of the people, but when it no longer is in their service, this becomes dangerous. It becomes dangerous in China’s case when the ruling party loses touch with its people, such as with the Gang of Four. Finally, Wang notes that economic alienation occurs through industrial pollution which turned forests into waste land. While this satisfied people through short term results, there was no consideration of the long term negative consequences. Wang acknowledges that alienation is a big problem, and despite being able to find solutions, there will always be other ways in which alienation arises.
This text takes known theories and facts, but sheds light on something new. During the Cultural Revolution and the Cult of Mao, the people were following “mindlessly”. Wang took a step back, and re-examined the situation and gave Mao’s reign a new perspective through old ideas. Personally, I find that this text has very strong arguments and Wang explains the corruption very coherently. I could imagine that with this publication, Wang was able to enlighten a lot of readers and students towards the dangerous situation China was in at the time.