Anti-fascism

Charles Brown CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Fri Aug 13 10:56:39 MDT 1999



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         The Internet Anti-Fascist: Tuesday, 10 August 1999
                      Vol. 3, Numbers 63 (#312)
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                FALUN GONG, CULTS, AND THE SWASTIKA

None of the major news reports on the Chinese Falun Gong cult mention
the swastika on the cult's home web page.[1]

This omission is all the more curious since the group has had no lack
of press coverage after the Chinese government banned it. But let us
set the swastika aside momentarily to first examine other aspects of
the group.

You read an enormous amount about the cult in the major Western media
but curiously little about the fate of the Roma in Kosovo, Yugoslavia.
Certainly the Chinese authorities have cracked down on the cult; the
Napoleonic/Continental legal code gives authorities wide discretion for
investigative detention.[2] Even if one protests every action by the
Chinese government, nobody charges that Falun Gong members have been
raped or murdered, nor have their businesses been destroyed; such
crimes are reserved for the Roma and other minority victims of
"Albanian Kosovo."

>From this we are justified in concluding that there is a significant
bias in the Western press around the idea of universal human rights.
When the press virtually ignores the Roma it is easy to conclude  that
Falun Gong made the news not so much because of any injustice waged
against them but more out of a desire to attack the Chinese government.

                       Just what is Falun Gong?

It has been portrayed as a religion whose rights were violated, a sect,
a cult, a traditional Chinese physical exercise, and a philosophy. It
claims one hundred million members. This figure, challenged even within
the otherwise favorable Western press, lets us know that all the
group's claims must be examined critically.

"There is no political agenda," they wrote in a press release.[3]
"Falun Dafa is not a 'cult' or a 'religious sect' as the Chinese
authorities claim. There is no formal structure or organization."

This statement is highly problematic, for if their is no formal
structure or organization, who put out the group's press release?

The statement also seems to contradict the status of prime-leader Li
Hongzhi. He is the sole source of expertise about Falun Gong and tells
his followers just that. Li has claimed cult-like (almost deified)
authority; his assertion here is worth quoting at length:

    "You are also not allowed to spread the cultivation system in the
    way I do. You must not preach the Law in the form of large-scale
    lectures as I have adopted. You are unable to preach the Law. What
    I speak about is of a very profound significance, because there are
    things belonging to the high dimensions in my lectures. Now you
    cultivate at different levels of attainment. When you have improved
    yourselves in the future, and you go back and listen to the
    recording of my lectures, you will improve yourselves continuously.
    If you listen to them constantly, you will always have a new
    understanding and gain. You can achieve a much better result by
    reading this book. I am giving lectures which contain things very
    high and profound. So you are unable to preach the Law. You are not
    allowed to take my original words as your own. If you do, you are a
    Law robber. You can only say my original words and tell the
    listener that they are said by the teacher or are written in the
    book. You can only talk this way. Why? Because such talking will
    carry the power of the Great Law. You must not spread what you know
    as Falun Dafa. Otherwise, what you spread is not Falun Dafa. You
    are equally disrupting our Falun Dafa. If you talk according to
    your ideas or your thoughts, what you say is not the Law. It is
    unable to save or have any effect on others. Therefore, nobody else
    is able to preach this Law.

    "To spread the cultivation system, you can play the recording or
    play the video tapes in the place of practising the Gong or in the
    place of teaching the Gong. Then let the instructor teach them how
    to practise the exercise. You can adopt the form of a forum where
    you can learn from each other through discussions and
    interpretations and by exchanging experiences and views. You are
    required to spread Falun Dafa in this way. Besides, you must not
    address the student (disciple) who spreads Falun Dafa as teacher or
    master. There is only one master of the Great Law."[4]

The group came under attack when it mobilized some 10,000 supporters
outside the homes of the Chinese leadership. Recently, however, cult-
leader Li has distanced himself from this action. Press spokesman
Erping Zhang said that "Li also did not orchestrate the Falun Gong
demonstrations in China in April that led to the crackdown...."[5]

Seemingly even stranger, Zhang also maintained that "There is no chain
of command with Mr. Li at the top."[5]

This is the type of cynicism about the truth that often marks cults.
The group can tell the press that Li plays no such role, indifferent to
the fact that we can read Li's claims to the contrary on the group's
web page.

It mobilizes 10,000 people for protests yet denies it is political and
claims to have no structure.

Its claim to represent "traditional values" is not one likely to be
accepted as apolitical, especially from those familiar with the ultra-
politicized Christian Fundamentalists in the U.S. who espouse a similar
traditionalism.

These questionable statements about the group's organizational forms
and political norms lend greater credibility to reports in the Chinese
media. "Chinese news reports also challenge the group's assertions that
is no formal structure," claiming that the group had "'39 provincial-
level 'general guidance stations' and 1,900 lower-level 'guidance
stations' spread all over China."[6]

A critical examination of the group's actions and claims should lead us
to believe that it lied about its political orientation, lied about its
membership figures, lied about Li's role as the cult-leader, and put
out statements at least disingenuous about its organizational structure
and mechanisms of responsibility.

This then returns us to the issue of the swastika and the claims that
the group is not political.

For some the swastika is more than the evidentiary "smoking gun;" it
conjures up rather the image of the smoking crematoria of the
Holocaust.

Some sympathizers of politicized Asian-based religions maintain that
the swastika "is just an Indian good luck symbol."

This assertion creates several questions for those making it. Of all
the "good luck symbols" in the world, why pick India as one's source?
And of all the other symbols in India why pick the swastika?

Swastika-wavers not formally connected to recognized fascist groups
have occasionally been defended on the basis of their youth and
ignorance: "They're too young to really know what the swastika stands
for." We've also heard it proposed that Falun Gong developed in a
Chinese backwater where European history is not high on the curriculum,
so the cult might not have known of Hitler.

The youth-defense ignores the historical fact that members of the
original Nazi Party tended to be younger than the older more-
established organizations.

The leader of Falun Gong resides in the United States. The cult has a
widely-diffused presence on U.S. college campuses, as documented by the
links on its web page. No; Falun Gong knows full well about Hitler and
the crimes against humanity committed under the sign of the
swastika. Knowing this, they made a decision to put it on their home
page. Such was their right; just as it is the right of others to judge
them for it.

For some no other facts are necessary; but let us continue with their
claims to be apolitical.

The cult claims to reflect the "will of the people,"[7] perhaps the
ultimate political statement and one consistent with a group competing
for state power for itself.

Members of the dissident China Democracy Party like Xie Wanjun think
the group is political enough to try to form a "pro-democracy" alliance
with it.[8]

              Religion-As-Politics; Politics-As-Religion

Asia has a tradition of the politicized-religion or of political groups
presenting their organizing in the guise of religion.

The tradition is far more widespread than the thousand-year domination
of Tibetan politics by esoteric Buddhist cults. In Japan, the feudal
lord Oda Nobunaga suppressed the Tendai and Ikko sects of Buddhism
because of the religion's attempt to dominate politics.  China's
Taiping Rebellion, with its particular Sinoized version of the
Christian Kingdom, killed some twenty million people in the mid-1850s.

The British in India fought one Kali-cult of Hinduism grouped around
the "thagi" or "thuggee." Certain Western-oriented Hindu groups
counselled people to both "avoid politics" and "attack Communism,"
arguing that the latter action was not political but a defense of
religious rights. When religious leaders bid for state power, terms
like "Communism" become exceedingly flexible, bordering on the
McCarthyite slanders of years past. We remember the end of the New Left
as newly invented Hindus and Buddhists attacked civil rights and anti-
war activists for being political instead of spiritual; the
spirituality consisted of little more than attacking those seeking a
better society. Opposition to their frequent disruptions of meetings
became, in their rhetoric, an attack on their religious freedoms and,
in turn, served to justify their disruptions against anti-religious
"communists."

More recently we saw the avowedly-apolitical Aum cult in Japan develop
anti-Semitic theories in a land effectively without Jews while
attacking thousands of Tokyo subway riders with poison gas.

Nor must we forget the otherwise "apolitical" clerical fascism rooted
in certain Roman Catholic traditions that would place the Church as a
ostensible neutral spiritual body standing above the temporal state and
mediating its disputes.

A religion that engages in political struggles abandons any special
claim it has to religious freedom. A mugger is hardly exempt from
arrest because he sings The Star-Spangled Banner while committing the
crime, even though the arrest may seriously limit his expression of
sung patriotic sentiments.

But of the course the ultimate refutation of claims that Falun Gong's
religious freedom was violated comes from the cult itself: it denies it
is a religion.

                           Apolitical Cults?

We need to take an exceedingly critical attitude towards any cult that
claims to be apolitical. For frequently such claims are made with
"private dictionaries" where the words used may be the same ones you
and I use, but with a special -- often both secretly and ill-defined --
definition by the cult. Thus one cult may stress that it is apolitical,
attacking "politics" as an attempt to dominate society with
"materialist values" while openly admitting it wishes to control the
same society with its "spirituality."

Nor must we automatically accept a religion's claim of discrimination
when prosecuted by state power.

We recall such claims made by the Church of Scientology, the
Unification Church, and the Church of God when the groups were
targeted for very non-religious criminal activity. Today's World Church
of the Creator claims its religious freedom is violated by the
investigation following church-member Benjamin "Sabbath Breaker"
Smith's killings. Elsewhere, religious organizers today demand
prosecution of Americans United For the Separation of Church and State
for violating their religious "right" to link pulpit with ballot box.
Other Christian fundamentalist sects defend their ostensible freedom to
avoid the laws of civil society. They claim to answer to the highest
law -- of God -- formed in some arcane legislative assembly that only
they know. For these fundamentalists the political demand to return to
"traditional values" forms both the core of their politic and the basis
for them to declare themselves "apolitical." We get far greater insight
into Falun Gong's seeming apolitical declaration, made on CNN, that the
Chinese have been "brainwashed" while their cult seeks to return China
to "traditional Chinese values." The image of the cult becomes more and
more that of the traditional Asian-based politicized-religion,
conducting its political organizing behind the mask of apolitical
religious action. The cult also turned out over ten thousand people for
co-ordinated demonstrations, whose very effectiveness belies claims of
decentralization.

We've seen that many cults have a philosophy of neo-Manichaeanism, with
the cult representing all that is noble in the cosmic Good vs. Evil
struggle that dominates the world. Within this view, there is often an
antinomian ethic that frees the cultists from the normal standards of
behavior that they advocate for the rest of the world. We've seen
fraudulent cult fund raising justified by the claim that it was really
"Satan's money" so that depriving -- via lies -- the owners actually
benefited them. Some members of the Krishna maintained that criminal
drug dealing wasn't really that at all if done for the glory of
Krishna. Those abreast of recent disputes concerning Scientology could
list more examples.

            The Swastika, the swastika, again the swastika

We are justified in taking the most skeptical view of this cult until
there is a full detailed explanation of their actions, the most
important of which is the swastika on their web site. Above all any
explanations must be subject to critical scrutiny and hold up under
such examination; neither self-supporting advertising jingles nor
unsubstantiated pro-cult assertions will do.

But that is the charitable view.

Others, seeing Falun Gong's decision to use the swastika as a symbol,
maintain nothing more is need to prove the far rightwing political
nature of the group.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] falun.gif from <http://www.falundafa.com/>, no date; downloaded 27
Jul 99.

[2] This came about via the Chinese Revolution of 1949 via the Russian
Revolution of 1917 via the Tsarist legal system via Napolean. It is a
curious series of historical twists.

[3] Falun Gong (press release), "China Sends Out Order for Arrest of
Falun Gong Founder: Practitioners in America Call for Security
Measures," 29 Jul 99.

[4] Li Hongzhi, "Zhuan Falun: On Buddha Law" Lecture 3: "How the
Students of Falun Dafa Should Spread the Cultivation System," no date;
downloaded 3 Aug 99.

[5] Hugh Bronstein  (Reuters), "Falun Gong Founder Not Behind Protests-
Spokesman," 31 Jul 99.

[6] Seth Faison (New York Times), "Ex-General, Member of Banned Sect,
Confesses `Mistakes,' China Says," 31 Jul 99.

[7] Hugh Bronstein  (Reuters), "Banned Chinese Group Asks For Support
In Protest," 29 Jul 99

[8] Associated Press (no author), "China Dissident Seeks Group Unity,"
5 Aug 99.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

                           FTP SUPPLEMENTS

These supplements were prepared, numbered, and dated before the
special issue on the Washington D.C. Nazi march and counter-action
was prepared (8 Aug 99, 3:62, #311). Thus there is a small difference
in dates and issue numbers.

The Internet Anti-Fascist: Saturday, 7 August 1999
FTP Supplement #136 (#308): News On the Falun Gong Group
1)  Benjamin Kang Lim (Reuters), "China Cracks Down On Sect As
    Thousands Protest," 21 Jul 99
2)  Benjamin Kang Lim (Reuters), "China Detains Sect Members Following
    Ban," 23 Jul 99
3)  Charles Hutzler (Associated Press), "Cults Boom As New Millennium
    Looms," 24 Jul 99
4)  Damien McElroy (Daily Telegraph), "Sect leader warns China of
   'another Tiananmen Square'," 25 Jul 99
5)  Renee School (Associated Press), "China Detains Government
    Officials," 26 Jul 99
6)  Hugh Bronstein  (Reuters), "Banned Chinese Group Asks For Support
    In Protest," 29 Jul 99
7)  Seth Faison (New York Times), "Followers of Chinese Sect Defend Its
    Spiritual Goals," 30 Jul 99
8)  Seth Faison (New York Times), "Ex-General, Member of Banned Sect,
    Confesses 'Mistakes,' China Says," 31 Jul 99
9)  Hugh Bronstein  (Reuters), "Falun Gong Founder Not Behind Protests
    -Spokesman," 31 Jul 99
10) Associated Press (no author), "China Dissident Seeks Group Unity,"
    5 Aug 99
<ftp://ftp.nyct.net/pub/users/tallpaul/publish/tinaf/tinaf308.txt>

The Internet Anti-Fascist: Sunday, 8 August 1999
FTP Supplement #137 (#309): The Roma In S.E. Europe -- Part 2
0)  Contact information
11) European Roma Rights Center , "Roma Rights: introduction," No. 2
    1999
12) European Roma Rights Center (press release), "The Current Situation
    of Roma in Kosovo," 9 Jul 99
13) Colleen Barry (Associated Press), "Kosovo Gypsies Demand Safe
    Passage," 13 July 99
14) Colleen Barry (Associated Press), "Kosovo Violence Alarms UN
    Official," 14 Jul 99
<ftp://ftp.nyct.net/pub/users/tallpaul/publish/tinaf/tinaf309.txt>

The Internet Anti-Fascist: Monday, 9 August 1999
FTP Supplement #138 (#310): The Roma In S.E. Europe -- Part 3
15) Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (press release),
    "Helsinki Commission Leadership Asks Albright: 'What Are You Doing
    to Protect Kosovar Roma'?" 15 Jul 99
16) Dimitrina Petrova (Executive Director: European Roma Rights
    Center), "Letter to Mr Olivier Bodin, European Commission
    Representative of the Joint World Bank/European Commission Office
    for Southeast Europe, and Mr Rory O'Sullivan, World Bank
    Representative," 28 Jul 99
17) European Roma Rights Center (press release), "Roma from Kosovo
    Testify," 2 Aug 99
18) RomNews Network (no author), "Skinheads condemned in Prague," 3 Aug
    99
19) Human Rights Watch (press release), "Harassment and Violence
    Against Serbs and Roma in Kosovo," 3 Aug 99
20) RomNews Network (no author), "German Find Albanian Torture
    Chambers," 4 Aug 99
21) Associated Press (no author), "KLA Decry Attacks on Serbs," 6 Aug
    99
<ftp://ftp.nyct.net/pub/users/tallpaul/publish/tinaf/tinaf310.txt>

                               * * * * *

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a
prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research
and educational purposes only.
___________________________________________________________________

                               FASCISM:
   We have no ethical right to forgive, no historical right to forget.
       (No permission required for noncommercial reproduction)

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