Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 7, 2009

Uighur oppression

Filed under: China,Islam,Turkey — louisproyect @ 6:34 pm

Uighur woman confronts Chinese cops

My Turkish language professor at Columbia University once made an interesting observation. He said that variations on the Turkish language (Turkic) can be heard from Turkey to China and that he could understand it from country to country if he proceeded eastward. But the further east he went, the harder it would be for him to understand. Azeris would be quite easy to understand; Kazakhs somewhat more difficult; and Uighurs (or Uyghurs) the most difficult of all.

On the Uighur Language website, there’s a comparison between Turkish and Uighur drawn from the Nasreddin folklore, a series of tales about a wise and humorous elder that I had occasion to read in Turkish class. “Bir gun” in Turkish means one day; in Uighur it is “bir kun”. Hoca is Turkish for teacher; in Uighur it is “hoja”, etc.

Turkish

Bir gun sevmedigi bir komsusu Nasreddin Hoca’nin kapisini caldi; bir gunlugune esegini kendisine vermesini rica etti.

Uighur

Bir kun yahxikurmeydighan bir hoxnisi Nasirdin Hojaning ixigini urup, exigini bir kunlik otnige berixini soraptu.

Uighur ballad (sounds very Turkish)

During the rise of the Mongols, the Turks, who were also a nomadic people historically, settled into the region that became known as Turkestan. As such, it was a key element in the Silk Road that facilitated trade between Europe and Asia until the end of the 15th century.

This area languished for centuries until competition between China, Russia, and European powers during the 19th century prompted an invasion by the Manchus into East Turkestan with the encouragement of British banks who were participating in the “Great Game”. “Xinjiang” or “Sinkiang”, which means “New Dominion” or “New Territory”, was annexed by the Manchu empire on November 18, 1884.

Meanwhile, Czarist Russia was seizing control over West Turkestan in its own expansionist bid. In their victory over the old regime, the Bolsheviks had to contend with the problem of oppressed nationalities, in particular the Muslim peoples to the south in what had been known as West Turkestan. In a fascinating debate between Lenin and Bukharin in 1919, there are some issues that are relevant to today’s struggles. Bukharin questions the need for self-determination of such peoples, using arguments similar to that of Rosa Luxemburg. Responding to Bukharin’s assertion that “I want to recognise only the right of the working classes to self-determination,” Lenin refers to the Bashkirs, a Turkic people who had petitioned the Soviet government for the right to form an autonomous Soviet Republic.

What, then, can we do in relation to such peoples as the Kirghiz, the Uzbeks, the Tajiks, the Turkmen, who to this day are under the influence of their mullahs? Here, in Russia, the population, having had a long experience of the priests, helped us to overthrow them. But you know how badly the decree on civil marriage is still being put into effect. Can we approach these peoples and tell them that we shall overthrow their exploiters? We cannot do this, because they are entirely subordinated to their mullahs. In such cases we have to wait until the given nation develops, until the differentiation of the proletariat from the bourgeois elements, which is inevitable, has taken place.

Our programme must not speak of the self-determination of the working people, because that would be wrong. It must speak of what actually exists. Since nations are at different stages on the road from medievalism to bourgeois democracy and from bourgeois democracy to proletarian democracy, this thesis of our programme is absolutely correct. With us there have been very many zigzags on this road. Every nation must obtain the right to self-determination, and that will make the self-determination of the working people easier.

As most of you probably know, this policy was reversed within two or three years as Stalin consolidated power and reintroduced the Great Russian chauvinism that made people such as the Bashkirs miserable. Just before his death, he wrote an article that has been described as his testament. It included the following warning:

It is quite natural that in such circumstances the “freedom to secede from the union” by which we justify ourselves will be a mere scrap of paper, unable to defend the non-Russians from the onslaught of that really Russian man, the Great-Russian chauvinist, in substance a rascal and a tyrant, such as the typical Russian bureaucrat is. There is no doubt that the infinitesimal percentage of Soviet and sovietised workers will drown in that tide of chauvinistic Great-Russian riffraff like a fly in milk.

Probably no Turkic people had it worse under Stalinist rule than the Crimean Tatars who were exiled from their homeland as a measure intended supposedly to help the USSR defend itself from the Nazis. Since there was a Tatar Legion in the Nazi army and since some of the Tatar clerics were sympathetic to the Nazis, Stalin decided upon collective punishment. The Soviet government described the forced migration as “humane” but the Wiki on the Tatars claims that 46.3% of the resettled population died of diseases and malnutrition. In other words, they suffered the same fate as Cherokees or Armenians.

In 1967, when I joined the Trotskyist movement, the party press, especially Intercontinental Press that was edited by Joe Hansen (one of Trotsky’s body guards), was taking up the cause of Soviet dissidents, including General Pyotr Grigorenko who was such a forceful defender of Crimean Tatar demands for justice that he had been put in a mental hospital in 1964. You can judge his mental status based on a speech he gave to the Tatars in 1968:

After having lost forty-six percent of their numbers in the forced exile disaster, they began to gather strength and to enter into battle for their own national and human rights. This struggle led to certain successes: the status of exiled deportees was lifted and a political rehabilitation of the people was achieved. True, this rehabilitation was carried out quietly … which in significant degree rendered it valueless. The majority of the Soviet people, who previously had been widely informed that the Crimean Tatars had sold the Crimea, never did learn that this ’sale’ was transparent fabrication. But worst of all, the decree on political rehabilitation… legalized the liquidation of the Crimean Tatar nationality. Now, it appears, there are no Crimean Tatars, there are just Tatars who formerly lived in Crimea.

Some would say—and they did—that the SWP was in a united front with the imperialists since the United States Information Agency had decided to publish a collection of documents written by the dissidents, including Grigorenko. Interestingly enough, they appeared in the journal Problems of Communism that was edited by Abraham Brumberg. Brumberg, who had impeccable anti-Communist credentials, developed some sympathies for the Sandinista revolution and defended Nicaragua against Reagan’s counter-revolutionary intervention throughout the 1980s. For those who think in terms of black-and-white, Brumberg would be too hard to figure out.

For all those leftists who harp on American support for the Iranian reformists as proof of its reactionary character, we can only assume that they would have opposed repatriation of the Crimean Tatars as well. If the USIA took up their cause, that’s all you need to know. In the 30s through the 50s, this kind of knee-jerk support for the Soviet government was the stock in trade of the Communist Parties. It is particularly unfortunate to see people such as James Petras, who were educated in Trotskyist politics in a previous lifetime, making the same kind of rotten arguments today.

As might be expected, the people of East Turkestan were treated just as badly as their brethren under Soviet rule since Mao, for the most part, agreed with Stalin on how to build socialism. Although China had fewer nationalities to forcefully assimilate, it did so with little regard to Lenin’s warnings about avoiding national chauvinism. In China, this was essentially expressed as Han nationalism that was intended to serve as a battering ram against non-Han peoples, first and foremost the Tibetans and the Uighurs.

China decided to swamp the Xinjiang province, the homeland of the Uighurs, with the dominant Han nationality not long after Mao took power. Between 1949 and the mid-80s, more than 5 million Chinese were sent to Xinjiang from eastern China in order to help assimilate the Uighurs, as well as other Turkic peoples including the Kazakhs, Kirghiz and Mongols.

In utter disregard of Lenin’s comment about having patience with people who still follow the lead of their mullahs, China organized a campaign against Islam under the rubric of combating a desire to restore “the old rule by capitalists, feudal lords, slave-owners” in the words of Liu Ke-ping, the Chairman of the Committee of Nationalities of the National People’s Congress. This included a ban on teaching Arabic in Xinjiang schools, a measure that would undercut the study of the Koran but likely to have little effect on the development of communism.

On January 14, 1985 the Washington Post reported:

The assimilation effort reached its peak during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 when the Arabic alphabet was outlawed in favor of the Latin alphabet, mosques were closed and turned into workshops, Moslem classics were burned, restrictions were imposed on the number of sheep minority peasants could raise, and Han officials delivered speeches in Chinese without providing interpreters.

So much for the Cultural Revolution as returning China to the communist road, unless of course your idea of communism is inspired by Stalin rather than Lenin.

The Post article continues:

In 1981, ethnic tension flared in Kashgar when a young Uighur peasant who was digging a ditch got into a fight with a Han Chinese. Neither was able to speak the other’s language. In a fistfight the Han was beaten by the stronger and bigger Uighur. Angered, the Han went into his store, took out his hunting gun and shot the Uighur.

Not much has changed in Xinjiang apparently. In recent clashes with the Hans, more than 150 people were killed. With a population numbering about 8 million, this would be the equivalent of 6000 killed in the U.S. in a day or two.

As is so often the case today, oppression of Muslim peoples seems to go hand in hand with the need to control petroleum resources. On August 28, 2008 the Financial Times reported:

The increasing importance of the Muslim-dominated Xinjiang autonomous region as a source of the energy and minerals needed to fuel China’s booming eastern cities is raising the stakes for Beijing in its battle against separatists agitating for an independent state.

“The Chinese didn’t want to let Xinjiang be independent before, but after they built all the oilfields, it became absolutely impossible,” said one Muslim resident in Korla, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution by government security agents.

The desert around the city is punctuated every kilometre or two by oil and gas derricks, each of them topped with the red Chinese national flag, an assertion of sovereignty over every inch of the energy-rich ground.

In 2005, Xinjiang’s local government was allotted only Rmb240m ($35m, €24m, £19m) out of the Rmb14.8bn in tax revenue from the petrochemical industries that are based in the region.

In Korla, the oil industry is under the control of a subsidiary of PetroChina, the state-owned energy giant, which answers directly to its head office in Beijing.

“We don’t have the power to tell them to do anything – they only listen to their bosses in Beijing,” said one local government official who asked not to be named.

Many of Korla’s original Uighur residents feel they have missed out altogether on the few benefits that have trickled down to the region from the rapid extraction of its energy resources.

It is no wonder that China put so much pressure on the U.S. government not to release the Uighur men who were kept in Guantanamo after being falsely accused of being Al Qaeda operatives. In the war on terror, which is really after all a war to control oil resources, the U.S. and China clearly see eye to eye.

21 Comments »

  1. Official Chinese media report 156 deaths, the count rising, in the Xinjiang protests. Yet lack of details suggests the government may be exaggerating the toll as a way of portraying the Uighur protest as more violent than it actually was. On the other hand, the government seems to be reporting a falsely low number of arrests.

    Comment by Faraway observer — July 7, 2009 @ 7:32 pm

  2. “This included a ban on teaching Arabic in Xinjiang schools, a measure that would undercut the study of the Koran but likely to have little effect on the development of communism.”

    Through my experience with religion here in Turkey, I can assert that the influence of sacred texts has nothing to do with the presupposition that they are extensively studied and understood by people. On the contrary, religion does not owe its power to the supposed prevalence of sola scriptura theology or theology at all but to the dominance of religious mythology which supplies the unattainable sublime element for religion. That is to say, sacred books are just ordinary books that obtain their authority by occupying the elevated position of an impossible object of desire, desire for “realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality”. I think in this sense Chinese CP’ers are idealists who assume to eliminate the influence of Islam by making Koran impossible to be understood whereas it is not supposed to be understood anyway.

    Comment by Mehmet Çagatay — July 7, 2009 @ 9:56 pm

  3. Thanks for posting on this subject Louis.

    I want to make a slight correction, though. You say that Xinjiang was annexed by the Manchu empire in 1884, which is not quite right. Xinjiang was first invaded by the Manchus in the 1750s, and was under Manchu administration as one of the outlying regions of the empire from that point on. That means it was not a province, and was subject to laws different from other parts of the empire. After about half a century of relative peace, rebellions in the 19th century led to the region falling out of Manchu control on several occasions, the most notable being the decade-long rule of Yaqub Beg in Kashgar. It was after the reconquest of Xinjiang by general Zuo Zongtang in the 1880s that Xinjiang was turned into a fully-fledged province. It’s this date which is sometimes erroneoulsy said to mark the initial annexation.

    Comment by dawutjan — July 7, 2009 @ 11:36 pm

  4. “In the war on terror, which is really after all a war to control oil resources, the U.S. and China clearly see eye to eye.”

    Just like the U.S. and Russia saw “eye to eye” in the “war to control oil resources” in Chechnya which has been an historic pipeline crossroads.

    Despite the Great Russian and Han chauvinism under Stalin & Mao the class character of the states their bureaucracies governed were decidedly different than todays.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — July 8, 2009 @ 5:00 am

  5. wow, a pretty simplistic and somewhat erroneous history given here. turkic peoples arrived way before the “rise of the mongols”, as far back as the 6th century, before the tang dynasty. meanwhile, han chinese interaction (and incursions and occupations) have been going on since the han dynasty, when the area was controlled by the xiongnu, a proto-mongolic tribe. the tang then also occupied significant areas, albeit relatively briefly, in the middle of the 7th century.

    Comment by anon — July 8, 2009 @ 7:34 am

  6. […] quote posted by Louis Proyect in his discussion of Uigur history (the rest of which is unfortunately one of Louis’ less […]

    Pingback by On Uigur History, Culture and Struggle « Kasama — July 8, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

  7. Wow, what errors! China first sent forces to the region in the 2nd century BC! By 60 BC they had established the Protectorate of the Western Regions. Do some research!

    Comment by Patty Wagon — July 8, 2009 @ 7:21 pm

  8. Steady on there folks, I think Louis has done a pretty good job, and like any nit-picking, the onus is on the critics to point out how the nits which are picked somehow weaken the argument.

    @anon: note Louis’ use of the word “settled”. There certainly weren’t any Turks settled in Turkistan in the 6th century, outlying nomadic groups had started to move into what is now Kazakhstan and western Siberia, but there were no Turkic-speakers in Xinjiang in any significant numbers until the fall of the Uyghur khanate in the 9th century.

    @Patty Wagon: yes, the Han garrisoned the region for a few years, their control was tenuous and short-lived. So what? The Xiongnu controlled it for much longer. Does that mean that Xinjiang is an inaliable part of Mongolia, where the Xiongnu had their capital? During the Tang the Uyghurs invaded China and helped put down the An Lushan rebellion. Maybe that means that China is an inaliable part of Xinjiang? If you think, as many Chinese do, that ephemeral moments of military contact have great contemporary political significance, think for a moment about the wide variety of peoples and powers that have occupied China over the centuries.

    Comment by dawutjan — July 8, 2009 @ 11:24 pm

  9. From Nasir Khan

    Thank you Comrade Louis for some important information about the national question and especially Lenin’s approach that eventually was put aside by Stalin. The political plight and socio-cultural status of the Uighurs over the last six decades is tragic.
    I highly applaud all those writers and activists comrades who are trying to expose the oppressive policies of the Chinese government in dealing with the Uighur people.

    Comment by sudhan — July 9, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  10. […] Proyect’s recent article is a frankly disgraceful example, but rather than exchange a polemic with Louis, let us refute his arguments by looking at the […]

    Pingback by SOCIALIST UNITY » CHINA'S BATTLE AGAINST TERRORISM — July 9, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

  11. On Kasama, we have been discussing (in a very initial way) some of the questions around the Uigur revolt in western China… and I posted a critique of Louis’ analysis above:

    http://mikeely.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/on-uigur-history-culture-and-struggle/

    * * * * * * *

    While we are talking…. I’d like to note that Louis Proyect (whose writings on many topics I find valuable) wrote a rather disappointingly dogmatic and uniformed commentary on the question of nationalities in China.

    The heart of his analysis is this:

    “China decided to swamp the Xinjiang province, the homeland of the Uighurs, with the dominant Han nationality not long after Mao took power. Between 1949 and the mid-80s, more than 5 million Chinese were sent to Xinjiang from eastern China in order to help assimilate the Uighurs, as well as other Turkic peoples including the Kazakhs, Kirghiz and Mongols.

    In utter disregard of Lenin’s comment about having patience with people who still follow the lead of their mullahs, China organized a campaign against Islam under the rubric of combating a desire to restore “the old rule by capitalists, feudal lords, slave-owners” in the words of Liu Ke-ping, the Chairman of the Committee of Nationalities of the National People’s Congress. This included a ban on teaching Arabic in Xinjiang schools, a measure that would undercut the study of the Koran but likely to have little effect on the development of communism.

    On January 14, 1985 the Washington Post reported:

    “The assimilation effort reached its peak during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 when the Arabic alphabet was outlawed in favor of the Latin alphabet, mosques were closed and turned into workshops, Moslem classics were burned, restrictions were imposed on the number of sheep minority peasants could raise, and Han officials delivered speeches in Chinese without providing interpreters.”

    So much for the Cultural Revolution as returning China to the communist road, unless of course your idea of communism is inspired by Stalin rather than Lenin.”

    There are some things that stand out:

    1) the opening sentence refers to the period “between 1949 and the mid-80s” — as if they are one thing. It may be true that 5 million Han people entered Xinjiang from eastern China over that period…. But in fact, the policies were radically different in the Mao period (1949-76) and then in the Deng period (1976 forward). And the most aggressive policies of Han migration took place after the restoration of capitalism in the mid-70s.

    In other words, the rather sloppy combining of the periods can be used to imply that Mao was the father of a policy of chauvinist assimilation, when the opposite was the case.

    2) This analysis relies on a quick, passing summation in the NYTimes for analysis of the nationalities policies during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution — which (does it need to be said) is a rather sloppy policy. (I.e. the New York Times makes a tidy anti-Mao anti-GPCR statement, and cuz that fits someone’s preconceived notions, the NYT paragraph gets adopted to reinforce the preconceived notions.)

    I have to confess that I have not done the serious research needed to know what the experience in Xinjiang was, during the GPCR — my point here is that neither apparently has Louis.

    3) There is a similar apriori notion here in regard to Mao’s policy and Stalin. The assumption here is a sequence of assumptions: (1) Lenin had the correct universal policies for nationalities under socialism, (2) Stalin departed from Lenin’s policy on nationalities, (3) Maoism is just an application of general Stalinism to China, and finally, therefore (4) Mao’s policies in Xinjiang are an extension of Stalin’s approach (to the Baltic states, or the Caucasus or poland or whatever)

    This approach is wrong as a method, and factually absurd once you actually investigate.

    First, I think it was a mistake (of the Comintern) to assume that the original communist nationality problems in Eastern Europe applied universally (all countries, all national minorities, all time). Certainly the thinking concentrated in Stalin’s 1912 writings on “the national question” were an improvement over the often chauvinist and colonialist approaches of various socialists around the world (including notoriously the U.S. Socialist movement which included openly racist elements and at best indifference to the oppression of Black and Native peoples.)

    And it has to be noted that, within the Russian Bolshevik movement, Stalin was the articulator of Lenin’s theoretical approach to nationalities in the period before the revolution — any “air” between them came later and on a largely non-theoretical plane of difficult choices in the heat of battle.

    China did not apply either Lenin’s approach or Stalin’s. they did their own independent analysis — which was important because China was (in fact) quite different from the Tsarist empire. And the difference started with the fact that all of China (including the Han regions) suffered sharply from national oppression at the hands of foreign imperialists (who were carving up the country, and flooding it with cheap commodities and opium that shattered the old social order).

    Also many of the border nationalities (in a way similar to indigenous peoples in many parts of the world) did not have in any practical sense the possibility of considering national independence — i.e. Tibet (scattered, weak, without a national market or economy) was not going to emerge (in 1949) as an independent country — it was either going to be part of the British sphere of south asia, or part of China. And so, the Maoist approach was to develop autonomous regions within the context of a newly liberated China.

    Summing this up is not easy, and in some ways the writings I did a decade ago are not as subtle and nuanced as i would like.

    http://mikeely.wordpress.com/interviews/the-true-story-of-maoist-revolution-in-tibet/

    However the answer is not (as Louis implies) to apply Lenin’s principles to China, while dropping Stalin’s. That approach will not solve political problems generally, and suggesting it for China really misses the whole history of the Chinese revolution, its particularities, and its rather significant and necessary rupture with the policies of both Lenin and Stalin.

    Comment by Mike E — July 9, 2009 @ 5:47 pm

  12. Louis writes:

    “In utter disregard of Lenin’s comment about having patience with people who still follow the lead of their mullahs, China organized a campaign against Islam under the rubric of combating a desire to restore “the old rule by capitalists, feudal lords, slave-owners”…”

    It is worth reading Mao’s actual policy (which so sharply contrasts Louis’s claim here).

    The guidance for the 1950s can be found here:
    http://www.marx2mao.com/Mao/WT52.html

    “Conditions in Tibet are different from those in Sinkiang. Tibet compares poorly with Sinkiang, whether politically or economically. But even in Sinkiang, the first thing the army units under Wang Chen did when they got there was to pay the utmost attention to strict budgeting, self-reliance and production for their own needs. They have now gained a firm foothold and won the warm support of the minority nationalities. They are carrying out the reduction of rent and interest and will proceed to agrarian reform this winter, and by then we can be sure of even greater support from the masses. Sinkiang is well connected with the heartland of the country by motor roads, and this is of great help in improving the material welfare of the minority nationalities. As for Tibet, neither rent reduction nor agrarian reform can start for at least two or three years. While several hundred thousand Han people live in Sinkiang, there are hardly any in Tibet, where our army finds itself in a totally different minority nationality area.”

    The general tone (here in regard to tibet, but generally applicable to the class struggle over ideas and property relations within minority naitonality areas). Mao discusses the approach of winning approval for the arrangement of “autonomy” proposed by the Chinese Communist Party:

    “To force its implementation will do more harm than good. Since they are unwilling to put the Agreement into effect, well then, we can leave it for the time being and wait. The longer the delay, the stronger will be our position and the weaker theirs. Delay will not do us much harm; on the contrary, it may be to our advantage. Let them go on with their insensate atrocities against the people, while we on our part concentrate on good deeds — — production, trade, road-building, medical services and united front work (unity with the majority and patient education) so as to win over the masses and bide our time before taking up the question of the full implementation of the Agreement. If they are not in favour of the setting up of primary schools, that can stop too.

    Comment by Mike E — July 9, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

  13. PROBABLY-WORTHLESS ANECDOTAL STUFF

    It is now fully 13 years since I was in Xinjiang / Eastern Turkestan, but what was observable THEN was that the flashy new houses and apartment buildings in Tashkurgan, Kashgar, Urumchi and Dunhuang were almost – almost – exclusively inhabited by Han Chinese.
    Every cool new jeep was driven by a Han Chinese. Every shabby tractor was driven by a local.

    Social life and even shopping appeared to be a matter of de facto segregation – like that between Russians and Estonians in Estonia.

    Improbably, I found that with a Japanese spouse [not too easily distinguished from a Han Chinese] I was regarded with more wariness and distance when we walked around as a couple than when I – a Caucasian – strolled around on my own.

    Comment by Bill Corr — July 10, 2009 @ 11:36 am

  14. Thanks, Louis, for your remarks about the wretched fate of the Crimean Tatars. Strangely enough, the topic came up this morning in a breakfast table conversation between me and my (Russian) father-in-law. He was telling me the story of how he bought his first car (a Zhiguli, which survived until the time I married into the family, in the nineties) in the early seventies. The first big trip he, my mother-in-law and my wife (then a little girl) made in the car was to the Crimea, to visit family friends from Leningrad who had bought a house there in the mountains. (This was the first stage – rather quirky for the times – of their later emigration to Australia.) As my father-in-law put it, “It was a Tatar house, but there were no Tatars there. They were transported to Kazakhstan because they had been collaborating with the Germans.” This comment set my blood boiling, and the ensuing argument brought an angry halt to breakfast.

    Two good books on the general subject of the rapid turnabout in Soviet nationalities policy are Terry Martin’s “Affirmative Action Empire” and Kate Brown’s “A Biography of No Place.” The first book gives the big picture Union-wide, while the second book focuses on what happened to the various (quite ethnically mixed-up) communities on the Ukrainian-Polish border (the so-called Kresty region). Part of that story involves, first, the official encouragement of “Jewish” (i.e. Yiddish) culture there, followed by a series of about-faces that led to mass deportations as well.

    Another manifestation of the enlightened phase of the nationalities police was the strange, short-lived experiment (not discussed in these two books, as far as I remember) with a Jewish autonomous region in, of all places, the Crimea. This story is told in Evgeny Tsymbal’s excellent 2006 documentary “Red Zion,” which it turns out was screened fairly recently at the Jewish Museum:

    http://www.thejewishmuseum.org/site/pages/press.php?id=118

    You’ll find the film fascinating, Louis, especially because it contains footage from a documentary made at the time by Mayakovsky, Viktor Shklovksy, and Osip and Lilya Brik in support of the Jewish colonists.

    Those were the days!

    Comment by hecksinductionhour — July 10, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

  15. For more on the Jewish colonists, see this:

    http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/culture/birobidzhan.htm

    Comment by louisproyect — July 10, 2009 @ 5:02 pm

  16. What a beautiful review, Louis.

    Several years ago, my wife and I met one of the archivists at the YIVO Institute, in the West Village. He was from Birobidzhan.

    You’re absolutely right about Yiddish. Inspired by similar sentiments, my wife has been studying it for the past several years here in Petersburg. She is always telling me about some new incredible poem or story she has just read. Limited as I am to Russian and English, I’m envious.

    I didn’t know there were Mountain Jewish restaurants in NY. I do know, however, that there is a huge community of Bukharan Jews in Queens, along with their restaurants. But I suppose that’s common knowledge.

    Comment by hecksinductionhour — July 10, 2009 @ 5:31 pm

  17. […] To let the Chinese get away with the perception they represent a ‘left’ is outrageous. Louis Proyect’s blog has another take on […]

    Pingback by Darwiniana » Sinophobia?? — July 10, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

  18. bill corr’s self-admittedly “probably worthless anecdote”:

    “Improbably, I found that with a Japanese spouse [not too easily distinguished from a Han Chinese] I was regarded with more wariness and distance when we walked around as a couple than when I – a Caucasian – strolled around on my own.”

    it is entirely possible that in both han and uyghur crowds there was “wariness and distance” because they saw you as “yet another white guy in asia with an asian gf/spouse/partner”

    Comment by anon — July 12, 2009 @ 2:00 am

  19. […] Proyect’s recent article is a frankly disgraceful example, but rather than exchange a polemic with Louis, let us refute his arguments by looking at the […]

    Pingback by China’s Battle Against Terrorism « In These New Times — July 12, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

  20. Forgive me if I am just repeating something already above, because I didn’t read every word of it, but… I mentioned this piece to a friend and she told me how as soon as this wave of repression happened against the Uighers, there was a mobilization of Turkish fascists at the Chinese embassy in Istanbul. I just found that so fascinating and disturbing. These assholes who want to slaughter Kurds and other ethnic minorities in their own country would stand up so vigorously for an ethnic minority somewhere else, essentially just because their language (a language all but imposed arbitrarily less then a century ago) sounds kind of similar? Anyway, thanks as always, your blog is the best.

    Comment by Brian Z — July 13, 2009 @ 1:50 am

  21. “Yet another white guy …”

    Anon [18] seems to think it likely that Tashkurgan, Kashgar, Urumchi and Turfan are amply supplied with Caucasian males wandering around with East-Asian female partners.

    This might, perhaps, be true of Beijing, Shanghai, Dali and so on but in Xinjiang /East Turkestan we did not see another couple meeting our description.

    There is something which ought to be added; the discussion of events in Urumchi have quite obviously – and understandably – tiptoed arond one awkward and unpalatable fact: the effect on the locals of the immigration of immense numbers of unassimilable aliens who have no desire to assimilate but, instead, establish a parallel society.

    Talking about THAT in polite society is sufficient to get one briskly banned from discussion websites.

    Comment by Bill Corr — July 13, 2009 @ 5:28 pm


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