For its 100th anniversary, CCP claims a world leadership in fighting “cults.” But the document reveals that “cults” are a pretext to fight religion in general.
by Massimo Introvigne
During the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the China Anti-xie-jiao Association, which coordinates the fight against the religious movements banned as xie jiao (“heterodox teachings,” often but less correctly translated as “evil cults”) published a theoretical reflection on the role of the CCP within the world “anti-cult movement.”
According to a Marxist analysis, the study says, xie jiao (but throughout the article there is a constant reference to the Western category of “cults”) are “political cancers” that nobody will be able to “completely eliminate overnight.” The CCP has consciously assumed the mission of being “the vanguard of the anti-cult movement” on a global scale.
Indeed, in no country in the world there is such a massive anti-cult organization, with all citizens mobilized to report on “cults” (and receive significant monetary rewards for this) and officers in charge of cracking down on “cults” in every village and in every block or grid. And, while elsewhere (with the exception of France), anti-cultism is largely a private affair, in China it is managed by the Public Security, the CCP, and the regime, with a mammoth organization anti-cultists in the West can only dream of.
The study states that each Party member should become an anti-xie-jiao activist. When noticing a gathering of people that may be part of a “cult”a good CCP member “does not stand idly, takes the initiative to intervene and understand the situation, and immediately reports to the Public Security organs or to the local village (or community) Party branch or township people’s government.” Party members should also immediately report to the police any xie jiao activity they find on the Internet. The text also mentions the practice of writing pro-xie-jiao slogans on banknotes, which reportedly originated with Falun Gong. “When a pro-xie-jiao slogan is found printed on a banknote, it should be reported to the local Public Security organ in time, and the pro-xie-jiao currency should be handed over to the bank for exchange to terminate its circulation.”
The problem of the study is that it quickly becomes confusing, as it is unclear whether its theoretical analysis applies only to “cults” or to religion in general. The study starts with the predictable comment that, “using dialectical materialism, Marx revealed the scientific process of human social evolution and Marxism became a powerful ideological weapon for the proletariat to step onto the stage of history, lead the people to smash the old chains, and enter the bright road of the new world.”
Based on Marx, Chairman Mao decided that CCP members (including, it is specified, “retired cadres and Party members”) “cannot believe in religion or participate in religious activities, and should resolutely fight against xie jiao organizations,” as Xi Jinping himself confirmed in 2016. He said that “CCP members are not allowed to engage in feudal superstition, or believe in religion, and are not allowed to participate in xie jiao.”
If they are not allowed to believe in any religion, singling out xie jiao may seem unnecessary. However, this is not really a contradiction, because it underlines that for the CCP the xie jiao are not really religions. (A similar argument, that “cults” are not religions, is often used by anti-cultists in the West).
The text becomes however more confusing when it states that “xie jiao are based on the idealist worldview of the creation,” which is Marxist jargon to state that they believe that the universe came into existence because of God or other supernatural entities or processes, rather than adopting a purely materialistic view based on what the text calls the “Marxist faith” and “the spirit of science.”
For a Party member, we read, “Marxism is its only belief.” “The Chinese Communists must be firm materialist atheists,” and should “guide the masses to establish scientific consciousness and consciously resist the superstitious thinking that looks for gods and spirits.”
The rhetoric that xie jiao should be fought because they are “cults” committing crimes quite collapses. In fact, fighting the xie jiao is just one of the tools to promote “materialist atheism” and combat religion in general.
In the West, there are surely anti-cultists who combat “cults” to protect their own religion from competition. However, there are also those who share the CCP’s perspective. Roger Ikor founded the French CCMM (Center of Documentation, Education, and Action Against Mental Manipulation), and was one of the fathers of European anti-cultism and of the anti-cult federation FECRIS. In 1980, he stated that “there isn’t between a cult and a religion a difference of nature, or rather of principle; there is only a difference of degree and dimensions… If it was up to us, we would put an end to all these nonsenses, those of cults, but also those of large religions.” He also quoted “Muhammad, the Christ, and Moses” as precursors of the “cult” leaders active in his time (Roger Ikor, “Les sectes et la liberté,” Cahiers rationalistes 364 :73–94).