(Recently there has been denials on the left of reports of repression of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang Province in China. Here, Aaron Ruby, an avowed communist, who visited Xinjiang Province in 2007 replies to somebody who says they have no way of judging whether such reports are accurate. He describes his own experiences there, including discussions with a Uyghur guide.)
I find such statements breathtaking and utterly immoral. It is akin to stating there was no Holocaust because you “have no way of judging since anti-German propaganda is so pervasive and well financed.”
As a communist and revolutionary, I am naturally inclined to disbelieve the accusations of US imperialism and its ONG henchmen. I am also very aware that the US rulers are preparing the political terrain of public opinion for a turf war with capitalist China. However, the crimes against the Uyghur are an indisputable fact.
During the Cold War the anti-communists used the crimes of Stalin to attack the USSR. That did not make them lies, as many Stalinsts feebly tried to respond. In fact the truth of stalinist monstrosities far exceeded the shrill accusations of imperialism.
The horrifying crimes against humanity by the Communist Party of China are well documented going back 70 years, and more. Today its crimes against the Uyghur are well documented. Some wild claims made by professional propagandists or Falun Gong nutcases can be easily discarded, but the general fact is irrefutable by any honest person.
I was in Xinjiang in 2007. Even then the brutal discrimination and fear was palpable and obvious, as was the breathtaking virulent racism by Chinese colonists in general and worse by the authorities.
I observed countless acts of discrimination, petty and large, by the Chinese.
I saw Chinese cops utterly unprovoked beat up two guys on a motorcycle right in from of my eyes in the Kashgar market. It was clearly representative of common behavior as judged by the cops brazen behavior and the cowed reactions of the bystanders.
I also observed the Chinese bulldozing the last of the millenarian Old City of Kashgar. This was part of the Chinese destruction of any and all evidence of the historic presence of the Uyghur people.
Likewise, outside of Turpan I watched the Chinese digging up historic Uyghur Mound graveyards and destroying the headstones. Again part of a genocidal historic erasure of evidence of Uyghur presence.
I was there as a tourist, who happened to be political and sought to see if the accusations were accurate. My starting point was dubious suspicion regarding the claims. The truth was undeniable.
One of the most moving and memorable parts of my visit to Xinjiang were my long conversations with a tour guide and translator.
I’ll call him Saber. He was young and a Haji.
Saber was one of the very few Uyghur ever allowed by the Chinese authorities to travel to Mecca for Haj. He enjoyed immense respect among other Uyghurs, which was obvious.
We quickly came to understand who each was, and our politics, in the way that years of political training allows revolutionaries of different nationalities, languages and cultures, to identify each other within minutes.
We spent dozens of hours discussing the situation in Xinjiang, and the world. Saber understood perfectly that I was an atheist, and that we had fundamentally different outlooks, but that we were united in a common opposition to oppression and injustice.
He was most fascinated in meeting a communist for the first time. To him “communists” were the Chinese oppressors, and he knew nothing of Marxism.
Of course the CCP made sure he and any other Uyghur, was completely unaware of the Bolsheviks 1917 Appeal to the Moslems of Russia and the East
Council of People’s Commissars, Appeal to the Moslems of Russia and the East, made within days of the revolution on December 7, 1917,
He was fascinated and determined to obtain the documents. As he told me an entire new world had opened at the thought that communists supported oppressed Muslim peoples.
Again, and again we came back to his same question: “How can 14 million Uyghurs achieve freedom when they are dominated by a billion Han Chinese?” It was as hopeless as could be imagined.
I told him they couldn’t, not against the Chinese people. The only possible way was to reach into the Chinese toilers to look for allies, against a common enemy: the CCP capitalists. That together they could fight for justice as allies. We discussed the growing push by the CCP to transform Chinese patriotism into vicious Han chauvinism, akin to any racism in the West.
I explained to Saber about the US civil rights movement, how a minority had changed society, through their own struggle but also by reaching out with a political jujitsu to the majority of whites, and if not winning their participation, at least neutralized their hostility, in the majority.
At the time there were a number of big strikes and protests in China by workers and peasants against the Chinese capitalists and government. We talked about them. We talked about the Uyghurs already being forced into factories in Guandong. That they might reach out to the Han workers and explain their situation to win allies.
I imagine Saber must be in jail or a camp in China now. He would be intolerable to the CCP totalitarian capitalist regime in Xinjiang.
Just as I recommended to Saber I also recommend everyone read the treasure trove of largely unknown Bolshevik documents and experience in fighting anti-Moslem oppression and discrimination.
It was one of the very first priorities of the revolution, and continues to have great importance to this day, where we see in Europe the growing use of Islamofobia by the capitalist rulers, as a new form of antisemitism, to divide and weaken the working class, and to protect capitalism. The Bolsheviks would certainly recognize the old foe.
There were also terrible things done by Russian colonists in the name of Bolsheviks, such as the Tashkent Massacre, which the Bolsheviks dennounced. Or the disastrous 1927 Hujum campaign in Central Asia, right as Stalinism was consolidating its vile chauvinist head in Russia and the USSR.
Council of People’s Commissars, Appeal to the Moslems of Russia and the East, made within days of the revolution on December 7, 1917:
“To all toiling Moslems of Russia and the East, whose mosques and prayer-houses have been destroyed, whose beliefs have been trampled on by the czars and the oppressors of Russia. Your beliefs and customs, your national and cultural institutions are declared henceforth free and inviolable. Organize your national life freely and without hindrance. This is your right. Know that your rights … are protected by the entire might of the revolution and its organs…. Support this revolution and its government!”
There is no contradiction between expressing solidarity with the Uyghur people, as an obligation as a communist in my case, or as a fundamental question of human solidarity, and opposing the US imperialist war drive against imperialist China.
I completely support the workers and peasants of China in their struggle against the capitalist rulers and the capitalist CCP. We need to build solidarity between working people of China and the United States, against “our” mutual enemies, the respective capitalists of the US and China.
That means opposing all jingoism and chauvinism in both countries. Chinese Han chauvinism is a reactionary threat, foremost to the oppressed Uyghur, but also to the toilers of China.
Oaklandsocialist adds: In general, the denials of the repression of the Uighurs is similar to the denials of the brutality of Assad in Syrya. For those who want to read more about the Uighurs, here is a general report in the New Yorker Magazine on the general situation inside the “virtual prison state” of Xinjiang province. And here is a report on how Uighur workers are being used as virtual slave labor throughout China. Also, for those who simply base their denials of the Xinjian reality on claims that the capitalist media always lies, we recommend this article that explains the real role of that media. The article examines the claims of Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, for example.