“统一思想”有多么可怕 – How scary is unified thought?

这是1942年的故事。与梅仲协、江平并称“中国民法三杰”的谢怀栻先生,当时还是一个青年,他自中央政治学校法律系毕业不久,从重庆步行至延安,在那里生活了一个月。“一方面,他在延安感受到革命精神,另一方面,他对那些‘统一思想’的标语感到困惑,他难以理解人的思想如何能‘统一’,于是悄然离去。”他回到重庆,参加高等文官考试,成为了国民政府的一名法官。
1996年8月的一个傍晚,坐看云起潮涌,树动风生,谢怀栻抚今追昔,与方流芳谈起了这段陈年旧事,并说明“从来没有写进个人履历”。此中原由,不难想见。1949年,江山易手之际,谢怀栻本有机会奔赴故地台湾,却选择留在大陆。此后,“我无法与时代一起前进,终于在1957年沦落为右派分子”,而且是“极右分子”,被处“开除公职,劳动教养”,二十年劳改生涯,千磨百折,九死一生。1979年底,他已经六十岁,才摘掉右派的帽子,重启法学研究工作。他的受难,实属因言获罪,与那个时代的大多数知识分子一样,撞在了“统一思想”的刀口之上。这一刀,1942年避开了,1957年却未幸免。对谢怀栻而言,23岁那年的延安之行,真真是个中滋味难言说。他意识到了“统一思想”的荼毒,然而造化弄人,终究无法逃脱。
谢怀栻研究的领域,我是外行,不敢置喙。我感兴趣的恰恰是1942年他的延安见闻:一个热血青年的革命激情,如何在“统一思想”的标语面前黯然退却?如今,距离谢怀栻的延安之行已经超过了七十年,距离其辞世已经超过了十年,“统一思想”的话语依然响彻中国,甚至远胜于当年,当年只是口号,现在却化作行动。
为什么有些人热衷于“统一思想”?思想到底能不能统一?
古往今来,最爱讲“统一思想”的人,往往是追求专制的权力者与集大权于一身的专制者。从秦始皇的焚书坑儒,到汉武帝的罢黜百家独尊儒术;从朱元璋删《孟子》,到康乾盛世的文字狱;从民国的“党化教育”,到史无前例的“文化大革命”,无一不可归于“统一思想”的政治谱系。权力要专制,表现之一,即思想要统一。反过来讲,从执政者对思想的态度,大抵可以窥见权力的流向:极权还是分权,专政还是宪政。
“统一思想”的原因十分明了,权力者企图千秋万代江山永固,世间万物,都欲牢牢把握在自家手中:从弓弩、菜刀到迁徙权,从民众的肉身到头脑,甚至包括性生活。如奥威尔《1984》所云:“……性本能创造了它自己的天地,非党所能控制,因此必须尽可能加以摧毁。尤其重要的是,性生活的剥夺能够造成歇斯底里,而这是一件很好的事,因为可以把它转化为战争狂热和领袖崇拜。”
专制之为专制,即追逐唯一,唯我独尊,予智予雄。然而思想的本性,即在自由。所以对专制者而言,思想的自由化、多元化,不啻是潜在的威胁。模仿索尔仁尼琴的名言:在一个国家,拥有一个自由思想的头脑,就等于存在另外一个政府。
顺道说一点:永远不要低估思想的力量。有人习惯把思想(观念)与行动分开,认为若无后者支撑,前者将无力为继。事实上,思想只要独立、自由,本身便是一种力量。哈耶克与凯恩斯这一对冤家,不约而同强调思想的巨大作用力。哈耶克说:“长远而言,是观念、因而也是传播新观念的人主宰着历史发展进程。”凯恩斯说:“经济学家以及政治哲学家之思想,其力量之大,往往出乎常人意料。事实上统治世界者,就只是这些思想而已。……我很确信。既得利益之势力,未免被人过分夸大,实在远不如思想之逐渐侵蚀力之大。不论早晚,不论好坏,危险的东西不是既得利益,而是思想。”
基于此,专制者为了统一思想,无所不用其极。删书、禁书、焚书、锻造文字狱,只是寻常手段;更胜一筹者,则企图改造人类的头脑和神经,如使用药物、剥夺感官;当然最高明、最通用的做法,还是思想的权威化,即全国只能有“一个思想”。所谓统一思想,就是把所有的思想都统一到“一个思想”麾下,让所有的头脑都臣服于这唯一正确的头脑。当然这三者并不冲突,完全可以同时施展,如一面禁书、焚书,一面只许民众阅读代表了“一个思想”、“一个主义”的书籍。质言之,只给民众读一种书,其危害并不亚于禁止他们读书;只给他们一种思想,其危害并不亚于禁止他们思想。
思想的权威化,用哈耶克的话讲,叫“思想的国有化”。思想国营国有,往往伴随产业国营国有,“正好一里一表,一心一物,控制得千万人动弹不得”。倘名之为“垄断”,相形之下,更可怕的垄断,不是物质垄断,而是精神(思想)垄断。
需要指出,“统一思想”并非专制者的专利,而是所有权力者的梦想,只要权力不受制约,哪怕圣人、君子执政,都会独裁,以自己的思想为真理,视与自己冲突的思想为异端,必欲灭之而后快。正是从这个意义上讲,所有自由的思想,都是对专制的挑战;专制治下,纵然人身不得自由,只要思想自由,都将令专制者如芒在背。
思想终究不是肉身。肉身有形,思想无形,钳制肉身易,钳制思想难。将一个人关进监狱,他的思想却能飞越高墙和电网;甚至,灭绝一个人的生命,未必能灭绝其思想,肉身是思想的载体,思想却不会限定于一人的肉身。这一切,都取决于思想的自由属性。不是说,思想必教人得自由;而是说,只要人在思想,便是一种自由的表现。正因此,无论多少权力者试图“统一思想”,无论其口号如何甜蜜,手段如何严酷,思想却从未被统一。从纳粹到文革,对“统一思想”的运用可谓登峰造极,然而,自由的思想与独立的思想者,犹如不屈的火种,照亮了专制的长夜。
一面是“统一思想”,一面是自由思想,人类的历史,未尝不可视作这二者激烈斗争的历史。这场战争,也许永无尽头,除非人类灭亡。那么有无胜负可言呢?我不知道。我只知道,一个真正的思想者,应该像谢怀栻先生那样,见到“统一思想”的标语,不由困惑;在“统一思想”的浪潮之下,他不会“与时代一起前进”,而以退步的姿态,坚持自由的本位,守护思想的光芒。
载于《中国经营报》

This is a story from the year 1942. Named alongside MEI Zhongxie and JIANG Ping as “The Three Heroes of Chinese Civil Law”, Mr XIE Huaishi was still a youth at the time. Not long after graduating from the Department of Law at the Central School of Politics, he travelled on from from Chong Qing to Yan’an, where he lived for a month. “On the one hand, he gained a feeling for the revolutionary spirit in Yan’an, but on the other hand, he felt uneasy towards slogans of ‘unified thought’. He found it incomprehensible as to how people’s thought could be ‘unified’, and as a result he quietly left.” He returned to Chong Qing, took the Advanced Civil Officials Examination and became a judge under the Nationalist government.

On an August evening in 1996,XIE Huaishi sat watching the surging tides of cloud and the movement of the trees in the wind as he pondered the present and reminisced on the past with FANG Liufang, together with whom he talked of the old affairs of that bygone period, also making it clear that he’d “never written them into (his) person curriculum vitae”. The reason for this is easy to gather. In 1949, at a time when the country was changing hands, XIE Huaishi originally had the chance to head for his old haunt Taiwan, yet chose to remain on the Mainland. After this, “I was incapable of forging ahead with the times and eventually by 1957 had denigrated to become a rightist”, and moreover an “extreme rightist”. I was punished with “expulsion from my official position and with reeducation through labour”. His twenty year life in labour camp was a most grinding torture, from which he only narrowly escaped. At the end of 1979 at already 60 years of age he finally cast off the rightist label and restarted his work in legal studies research. His suffering was a veritable result of speech crime, and like the majority of intellectuals of that era had run into the knife point of “unified thought”. In 1942 he had evaded this knife, but in 1957 he was not so lucky. For XIE Huaishi, his trip to Yan’an when he was 23 truly is an ineffable personal feeling. He became aware of the cruelty and suffering of “unified thought”, however as fate would have it, in the end he had no way of escaping.

As a layman in XIE Huaishi’s field of research I dare not add my two cents. What I am precisely interested in is his experiences at Yan’an in 1942; how could the the revolutionary passion of a feverish youth silently slip away in the face of the slogan of “unified thought”? We are separated by 70 years from XIE Huaishi’s visit to Yan’an, and separated by 7 years from his parting with the world. Still, the words “unified thought” ring out through China to the extent that they far surpass back in the day, when they were only catchphrases. Now, however, they have turned into action.

Why are some people so fond of “unified thought”? Can thought really be unified?

Since time immemorial, those most fond of speaking about “unified thought” were always those in pursuit of autocratic power and those autocrats who had amassed great power in themselves. From Qin Shihuang’s (supposedly the first emperor to unify China) book burning and killing of Confucian scholars, to Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty who rejected diverse schools of thought in favour of solely honouring the Confucian tradition; from Zhu Yuanzhang (Hongwu, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty) made deletions to…unsure if banned or just censored the “Mencius” classic, to the literary inquisition during the golden age of the Qing between Emperors Kang Xi and Qian Long; from the “Party Education” of the Nationalists to the unprecedented Cultural Revolution – none of this does not belong on the political spectrum of “unifying thought”. One of the marks of a power wanting autocracy is wanting unified thought. Conversely, from rulers’ attitudes toward thought, we can, for the most part, gain insight into the direction in which power is headed, whether it be totalitarian or separated power, dictatorship or constitutional government.

The reason for “unified thought” is extremely obvious. Those with power attempt to ensure their country is ever fixed throughout the ages, and hope to firmly hold everything under the sky tightly in the palm of her hand. From the crossbow and the kitchen knife to the power to force migration, this includes everything from the people’s bodies, to their minds, and even their sex lives. As was said in Orwell’s ‘1984’, “…the sexual instinct creates its own world that is not within the control of the Party. Hence, the Party must do all that is possible to aid its destruction. Especially important is that taking away sex life is able to induce hysteria, which would be a good thing since it would be able to be transformed into a feverishness for war and worship for the Leader.” would be good if someone could find the original text for this quote, i havent had time

The reason autocracy is autocratic is because it pursues a singularness that demands itself to be the sole orthodoxy and seat of wisdom and greatness. However, the inherent nature of thought finds itself in freedom. Therefore, for an autocrat the liberalisation and pluralisation of thought is simply a lurking menace. To borrow Solzhenitsyn’s famous quote: “In any country, to possess a free thinking mind is tantamount to there existing another government.”

I’ll mention something here as we go: never underestimate the power of thought. Some people are used to separating thoughts (ideas) from actions, reckoning that without the support of the latter, the former is powerless to keep existing. In reality, thought only need be independent and free from it to be a kind of power in and of itself. The pair of old foes Hayek and Keynes unwittingly both emphasised the immense force that thought can exert. Hayek said, “In the long run, it is ideas and therefore those disseminating new ideas that dictate the course of history.” Keynes said, “The sheer power of the thoughts of economists and political philosophers often exceeds the expectations of ordinary people. What in fact are the rulers of the world are merely these thoughts…I am convinced that the influence of vested interests has been rather over exaggerated an is actually far inferior to the enormous gradual eroding power of thoughts. As a matter of time and for better or for worse, what is dangerous is not vested interests but thoughts.”

Because of this, autocrats will do their very worst in order to unify thought. Censoring books, banning books, burning books and waging literary inquisitions or; forging a literary prision are merely commonplace methods. Those of a higher calibre on the hand with attempt to remodel the brains and nerves of human, for example through the use of drugs and deprivations of the senses. Of course, the most cunning and most universally used method is still the making of a thought authority, that is, that the whole country can only have “one thought”. So called unified thought is to unify all thoughts under the banner of “one thought” and have all minds acknowledge allegiance to this single, correct mind. Of course these three are not at all in conflict and can definitely be put to use at the same time, for example by one the hand prohibiting and burning books, and at the same time only allowing the people to read books representative of the “one thought” and the “one -ism”. To speak plainly, only giving the people one kind of book to read is no less harmful then prohibiting them from reading books; only giving them one kind of thought is no less harmful that prohibiting their thoughts.

To use Hayek’s words, the making of a thought authority is called the “nationalisation of thought”. The running and ownership of thought by the state is often accompanied by state run and owned industries, and “as it just so happens, under unity of the internal and the external, of mind and of matter, countless people can be controlled such that they cannot even budge.” If we were to call this a “monopoly”, relatively speaking, the more dreadful monopoly is not a material monopoly but a monopoly of spirit (thought).

It needs to be pointed out that “unified thought” is not only the preserve of dictators, but rather is the dream of all those in power. So long as power is left unchecked, even saints and benevolent rulers will become dictators, believe their own ideas to be the truth, view ideas in conflict with their own as heresy, surely seeking to destroy them speedily. It is precisely in this sense that all free thought is a challenge to autocracy, and that under autocratic rule, even if people are physically unfree, so long as thought is free these dictators will certainly feel uneasy about their imminent death.

In the end, thought is not the body. The body has form and thought does not. It is easy to clamp down the body, but thought is hard to clamp down. Lock someone away in prison and their thought is nevertheless able to fly over the high walls and electric fences, even such that the extinguishing of a person’s life does not necessarily mean the extinguishing of her thought. The body is a carrier for thoughts, but thoughts are not restricted to the body of one person. All of this hinges upon thoughts’ characteristic attribute of freedom. That is not to say that thought will inevitably teach people to gain freedom, but rather, as long as a people are thinking, this is a kind of expression of freedom. As such, regardless of how much those with power try to “unify thought”, and regardless of how sweet their slogans and how cruel their methods may be, thought can never be unified. From the Nazis to the Cultural Revolution, the implementation of “unified thought” can be said to have reached its heights, however, free thought and independent thinkers lit up those long nights of autocracy like an unyielding flame.

On one side is “unified thought” and on the other is free thought. In the history of the human race, at no time has could history not be seen as an intense battle between these two sides. In this war there is no end, unless the human race becomes extinct. In that case, can their be any winners and losers to speak of? I do not know. I only know that a true thinker should be unable but to feel perplexed upon seeing the slogan “unified thought” , just as Mr XIE Huaishi did. Under the surging tide of “unified thought”, he would not “forge ahead with the times” but instead by adopted a posture of retreat, insisted on a standard for freedom and protected the brilliant radiance of thought.

Published in “China Business”

3 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

xiaoshiyidianreply
February 21, 2015 at 8:44 pm

A very inspirational piece. I hope to come back in the future to polish and perfect the translation and do the piece more justice.

julien.leyrereply
February 22, 2015 at 8:38 am

Very glad you enjoyed it! Yu Ge is quite inspiring – check our the rest of his work! http://marcopoloproject.org/authors/Yu%20Ge%20-%20%E7%BE%BD%E6%88%88/

adminreply
August 3, 2018 at 5:34 am

Original translation by Samuel Lar / Xiaoshi Yidian

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