Socialism and the Global Information War

By Heiko Khoo
China.org.cn, April 14, 2013


The battle of ideas is central to the struggle for world socialism. Leaflets, newspapers, books, theatre troupes, radio, film and television have all played an important role in ideological warfare over the last 100 years. Recently the Internet has facilitated the rapid mobilization of rebellions in North Africa and the Middle East, which shattered apparently stable regimes.

However, what Marx wrote in 1845 remains true:

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.”

The world hegemony of capitalism remains a fact. It is backed by powerful instruments of propaganda, which constantly seek to anchor the outlook of the ruling class within wider society. This continues despite a profound transformation in the balance of power that has accompanied the world economic crisis.

Analysts working for the People’s Liberation Army have long understood the need to study and develop methods of “people’s warfare in the information age.” As early as 1996, the Liberation Army Daily carried an excellent article by Wei Jincheng, where he explained that: “A people’s war in the context of information warfare is carried out by hundreds of millions of people using open-type modern information systems.” The era that he prophesied is now reality. But the tools available are inadequately used to transform global consciousness. Today’s world of network-centric information war, where public perceptions and attitudes are shaped by interaction with the Internet and the global mass media, necessitates a constant struggle to explain reality, and to win hearts and minds to the socialist cause.

Capitalist governments are waging war against their own people in the name of everyone “tightening their belts” meanwhile the super-rich have stashed away US$32tn in offshore tax havens. The justification for the system of wealth distribution is undermined by ruthless cuts targeting the working classes and poor. Nevertheless a barrage of absurd and persistent propaganda seeks to blame the poor for being poor. It accuses public sector workers of being selfish and lazy and promotes the concept of national-patriotic unity to confuse people during times of crisis.

Democratic elections do not change the fact that these governments represent the business and banking elite, who pull the strings behind the democratic facade. They buy political and ideological power and manipulate the minds of the people to believe that they live in freedom. In Europe, where welfare capitalism provided decades of relative stability, tens of millions are waking up to the real character of the crisis and are gradually forming views antithetical to capitalism itself.

Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the influential former chief economist and senior vice president of the World Bank, wrote a damning condemnation of the system in his book, "The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future". He shatters the myth that making a tiny minority rich helps society and shows that increasing inequality hinders economic and social progress. Beijing University Professor Justin Yifu Lin recently held the same World Bank post as Joseph Stiglitz had. He believes that China’s economy must upgrade its infrastructure and organize its productive activity to exploit its comparative advantages in the world economy. However, his ideas avoid any consideration of the comparative advantages of socialist economics and philosophy. In the world battle to win hearts and minds, what social and economic policies can offer an alternative to ever increasing inequality? Surely it is because of the advantages of publicly owned banks and industries that China avoided the worst of the global crisis.

The need to impact world opinion of the majority is rooted in the internationalist vision of Marxism. Before 2008 Western business advisors lectured China about the need to adopt the capitalist model. It continues to be the case that business lobbies get more attention in China than links to the workers of the world. But if Europe’s workers knew that China is building 36 million low-cost apartments for the workers; that wages are rising rapidly; and that welfare provision is expanding, this could play a big role in shifting consciousness about the so-called necessity of austerity in their own countries. If they knew the colossal scale of China’s public sector investment in railways, transport and green technology, European workers would more easily be able to envisage and demand alternative economic plans.

Inside China, real and dramatic progress, when poorly expressed in the form of propaganda, often evokes scorn, skepticism and mockery. This is multiplied in the Internet age at a speed and scale that no one can contain. So there is an urgent need to focus attention on defending core public sector advances and improving all aspects of democratic control over public property. Improvements for the masses should find expression from the people themselves and the media should act to facilitate this.

Yu Jianrong, the director of the Social Issues Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Rural Development Institute, hit the nail on the head in a recent article where he explained that the present system of rigid and static stability – aimed at the preservation of order – should give way to a dynamic, resilient and creative stability. In this way, the dialectics of social unrest can become a source of energy and vitality. This can help to sweep away corruption and the abuse of power, defend public property and invigorate the communist cause. Social unrest can become a productive force that helps to reduce inequality and foster a more participatory and harmonious society.

The author is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:


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Category : Capitalism / China / Hegemony / Marxism / Socialism

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