Partisan №57

The Rebellion of the Oppressed

Photo ACAB Media

The reporting of sexual assaults by CBC’s star host Jian Ghomeshi unleashed a tide in which thousands of victims of assault and harassment were engulfed. On social networks and elsewhere, many, anonymously or openly, condemned their attackers, sometimes going so far as to provide names. As stated by the authors Martine Delvaux and Pascale Navarro: “It has taken centuries, several waves of feminists… and the recent events for women to detonate the lock of silence.”

The ensuing wave proved irresistible; it even reached the corridors of the House of Commons, sweeping in two barely known Liberal MPs. It was therefore not surprising to see the usual defenders of the current system running amok in order to turn this tide. According to them, anonymous denunciations are much worse than the disease they seek to denounce. For these self-righteous people who think that there is nothing better than the “rule of law,” it is the victims’ responsibility to “behave correctly” (sic), in accordance with the institutions that are supposed to apply this rule of law: there is no right to rebel for the victims and the oppressed, only the right to appeal to the compassion of the system and the men who oppress them.

This kind of reaction reminds us of a debate in the young communist movement in China in the late 1920s, when peasant rebellions were multiplying. At that time there were many—police, lawyers, union officials, leaders of all kinds and even communists—who expressed indignance of the “excesses” committed by peasants, who did not always use “legal remedies” apparently available to them.

After having traveled in the province of Hunan to investigate these rebellions himself, Mao Zedong responded to those who believed the peasant movement was “going too far:”

“True, the peasants are in a sense ‘unruly’ in the countryside… People swarm into the houses of local tyrants and evil gentry who are against the peasant association, slaughter their pigs and consume their grain… At the slightest provocation they make arrests, crown the arrested with tall paper hats, and parade them through the villages… Doing whatever they like and turning everything upside down, they have created a kind of terror in the countryside… The peasants are clear-sighted. Who is bad and who is not, who is the worst and who is not quite so vicious, who deserves severe punishment and who deserves to be let off lightly—the peasants keep clear accounts, and very seldom has the punishment exceeded the crime… A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous… To put it bluntly, it is necessary to create terror for a while in every rural area, or otherwise it would be impossible to suppress the activities of the counter-revolutionaries in the countryside or overthrow the authority of the gentry. Proper limits have to be exceeded in order to right a wrong, or else the wrong cannot be righted.”

If we replace the word “peasants” with “women victims of sexual assault or harassment,” Mao’s view still seems perfectly right: the oppressed are right to rebel! That some university professors will be paraded through their campuses with dunce caps may sometimes be necessary if we are to attack a millennial long system.

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