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On Freedom of Speech 论言论自由

By
February 3, 2014

Excerpts from Chinese dissident and 1989 Tiananmen Square student protest leader Hu Ping’s seminal 1980 essay, translated for the first time into English. With an introduction by fellow dissident and Tiananmen student activist Wuer Kaixi.

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Photo by Nick Dawson

If the history of the world in the twentieth century were to be recorded in two pages, it would no doubt focus on two major campaigns: the one against fascist aggression and the other against communist totalitarianism, both carried out under the flag of democracy.

Despite the fundamental differences between fascism and communism, and the fact that they have historically opposed each other, the similarities between them are astonishingly many. They both stand on the opposite side of basic humanity, both claim ideological superiority, both suppress dissent, and both carry this out by means of a great deal of brutality. And the campaigns against them shared the same difficulties. The first involved years of world war and cost tens of millions of lives; the second lasted decades in the form of cold war, and caused even greater damage to humanity.

According to history, in the case of both campaigns, democracy was victorious. But the struggle for democracy in China is not yet done.

Hu Ping’s 1980 essay “On Freedom of Expression” is one of the most influential founding documents in the history of the contemporary Chinese anti-communist, anti-totalitarian movement. This profoundly important essay has stood the test of time for more than three decades, as China has undergone what is possibly one of the most astonishing transformations in human history.

My friend and mentor Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace laureate who is still in prison, stated the following in 2007 to commemorate the essay’s thirtieth anniversary: “Hu Ping is my enlightener, my mentor. His passionate call for freedom of expression has strongly excited and enlightened me since when I was still in college. It is through this passionate and well deliberated long article that I was able to more clearly understand the great significance of freedom of expression, and I then started looking for literature on the subject to read… This was also the time I had my initial idea of fighting for freedom of expression in China and exercised the very belief into words and deeds in public.”

As for the impact of this essay on me personally, a very close friend of mine, Pu Zhiqiang, who was also one of the student leaders in 1989 and is one of the most important human rights lawyers today in China—he is known as the Chinese “first amendment advocate”—has stated it so well. I believe his words best represent the entire Tiananmen generation: “Hu Ping’s ‘On Freedom of Expression’ has influenced me the most; it helped me to decide the path of my life. I found my cause that I am willing to pursue and sacrifice for.”

Liu Xiaobo echoed, as I do here, Hu’s words: “Freedom of expression is the Achilles’ heel of a totalitarian society. Establishing freedom of speech is the first step in defeating totalitarianism, and is also the last step.”

—Wuer Kaixi

Freedom of Speech Is Not Merely Relaxed Feudalism

言论自由不是封建社会的广开言路

The principle of freedom of speech was promulgated largely by the bourgeois revolution. As China never experienced a period of mature capitalism, no small number of people lack an understanding of the real meaning of freedom of speech. In fact, many of our comrades understand democracy to be nothing more than a particularly enlightened dictatorship, and freedom of speech to be nothing more than a feudal society that is particularly tolerant of criticism. There are some points that must be raised here.

A feudal society that is tolerant of criticism is not at all the same thing as freedom of speech, since the bounds of allowed speech are still determined by the will of the emperor. Differences in historical conditions or in the character of various emperors will lead to the loosening or tightening of those accepted bounds. No matter what, the bounds exist. Whether a country enjoys freedom of speech is not a matter of its rulers being willing to hear and permit critical opinion, but of its rulers lacking the power to punish those who hold those opinions.

No matter how high a kite flies it is not free, because the other end of the string remains gripped in the kite flier’s hand.

Some emperors—to consolidate the support of talented ministers; or in the tentative first days of a new reign; or out of consideration for their historical reputation; or out of magnanimity at the height of their power—may treat critical or even opposing opinion with tolerance. But it would be an essential error to label this attitude “freedom of speech.” It is only enlightened dictatorship. The fact that some emperors employ their power with relative wisdom does not change the fact that their power, under the feudal system, is by nature unlimited. Nor does it mean that the people enjoy a freedom of speech that cannot be stripped from them. And in the long history of feudal societies, these enlightened dictatorships have been exceedingly rare. Furthermore, they always seem to be the immediate result of the bankruptcy of one extreme dictatorship, and the preparation for the birth of another. No matter how high a kite flies it is not free, because the other end of the string remains gripped in the kite flier’s hand. No matter how great the space for speech in a dictatorship it is never truly free, because the emperor retains the power to limit it.

Truth does not develop like bamboo, where new clumps always grow on top of old ones. It grows like a clumping grass, with new shoots often emerging beside the old branches, or sprouting up in a new place altogether. Thus, even those who hold many truths cannot announce that, henceforth, all new truths must simply extend in the same direction as their old truth. Likewise, they have no right to appoint themselves supreme judges over those new truths. And so, in suppressing opinions which we believe to be false, we may be suppressing the appearance of new truths.

Only when those in power do not have the ability to punish dissenters is there real freedom of speech. Only when the people’s right to speak exists independently, without the protection of a benevolent and enlightened prince, is there real freedom of speech. Only when the people learn to resist the incursions of power on their speech, is there real freedom of speech.

正如上面所说,言论自由原则主要是通过资产阶级革命得到深入传播的。由于中国没有经历过成熟资本主义形态,致使不少人对言论自由的真正含义缺乏理解。事实上,某些同志所理解的民主,不过是一种开明的专制,他们所理解的言论自由,不过是封建社会的进谏纳谏、广开言路,这里我们有必要指出这一点。

封建社会的进谏纳谏之说,并非真正的言论自由,因为臣民的言论范围实际上是被帝王的意志决定的,由于各个历史条件的不同及各个帝王个性上的差异,这个范围有时稍宽,有时极狭。但无论如何,这种界限毕竟是存在的。一个国家有无言论自由,不在于当权者是不是愿意倾听和容忍批评意见,而在于他们没有权力惩罚那些持反对意见的人。

有些帝王,出于草创基业的广揽人才,出于初坐江山的兢兢业业,出于虑及后世的远见卓识,出于声威显赫时的宽大胸怀,都可能对批评意见甚至某些反对意见表示宽忍。但是把这种态度称为言论自由,那就是犯了实质性错误。这只是开明的专制而已。某些帝王能够比较明智的使用权力,并不会改变封建帝王权力的无限性这一本质。并不意味着人民已经享有了不可剥夺的言论权利。这种开明专制在漫长的封建社会里始终是罕见的例外。而且,它们几乎总是一种极端的专制破产后的结果,同时又总是下一场极端专制来临前的准备。风筝飞得再高也不是自由的,因为线的另一端控制在放风筝者的手里。专制下的言论路子再宽也不是自由的,因为控制言论的权力在帝王手里。

只有当权者没有权力惩罚持不同意见的人时,才有了真正的言论自由;只有在人们的言论权利无需乎善良开明的君主保护也能独立存在时,才有了真正的言论自由;只有在人们学会了抵抗权力对言论的干涉企图时,才有了真正的言论自由。

*                      *                     *

On Freedom of Speech

论言论自由

The purpose of the present text is to argue in favor of freedom of speech—a somewhat peculiar task. Where there is no freedom of speech, it is generally impossible to articulate arguments on its behalf. But where there is freedom of speech, such arguments often appear redundant. This peculiarity leads to a common misunderstanding: that the existence of freedom of speech depends entirely upon the will of those in power. This misunderstanding in turn often leads to the neglect of theoretical discussions of freedom of speech, resulting eventually in the complete stifling of the value and vitality of the principle itself.

A regime which has the power to ban all critical opinion will forever have the support of the “people,” because it has defined all dissenting opinion as being not of the “people.”

Of all the political rights given to citizens by the constitution, freedom of speech comes first. When an individual loses the right to express his or her wishes and opinions, that individual is bound to end up a slave or a pawn. Of course, to have freedom of speech is not necessarily to have everything, but the loss of it will inevitably lead to losing everything. Everyone knows the importance of the principle of the fulcrum in mechanics: the fulcrum itself may do nothing, but only by its virtue is the action of the lever possible. They say that Archimedes, the discoverer of the principle of the lever, once said: “Give me a fulcrum, and I will move the world.” In political life, is not freedom of speech just this sort of fulcrum?

What is “freedom of speech”? It is the freedom to express all manner of opinion. If we suppose the freedom of speech to be permitted only within bounds established by those in power, then which nation in all of history cannot be said to have freedom of speech? What point would there be to including it in our sacred constitution?

A governing power has reason to exist only as it acts in accordance with the wishes of the people. This necessarily demands that, at the very least, the people have the right to express, with no reservations, their true attitude toward that power. A regime which has the power to ban all critical opinion will forever have the support of the “people,” because it has defined all dissenting opinion as being not of the “people.” Imagine for a moment a regime that swears service to the people, but arrogates to itself the right to define who belongs to the “people” and who does not—is this not a perfect example of circular logic? Supposing this logic held, there would not be a government on earth that did not have the support of its “people.”

The destruction of any thing begins at its fringes. The suppression of speech always starts with that which is sincerely believed to be counter-revolutionary by a majority at the time. In this way, the majority is not only insensitive to the illegality of the suppression—on the contrary, it supports it, even participates in it. Suppression could never begin without the consent of a majority of the people. Once the people have taken part in this illegal deprivation, however, a mortal blow has been struck, and from then on suppression worsens by the day. As the people inflict illegal punishment on others, they strip themselves, tragically, of the protection of the law. The more they participate in suppressing others’ right to speak as they wish, the more they themselves lose that right, and the more they are caught up in the repression. The result of this vicious cycle can only be a tightening of the screw, a sinking into quicksand.

Modern authoritarianism differs from that of ancient times—when rulers were openly inimical to their people—in that it claims to exist as a direct expression of the will of its people. The secret basis of its rule is not violence so much as it is deception, because its use of violence, at root, depends on the deception of those whom it employs to unleash violence.

This deception exists on two levels. The first is that, as the autocratic monster was being born, it tricked a majority of the people into giving it their sincere support. The second level is that it uses the suppression of speech to prevent people from sharing their experiences among themselves, thus preserving the false impression that it still enjoys the support of the majority.

As our forefathers were struggling for democracy, they made a fatal mistake. They failed to impress the most fundamental principle of democracy—freedom of speech—on the hearts of the people. The majority—including some highly knowledgeable and capable individuals—has never completely grasped the principle’s full significance, which has left a crucial window open for authoritarianism. Freedom of speech is both the first requirement for democracy, and also its last line of defense. With this inner sanctum protected, democracy can win the field, and the process of democratization will be unstoppable.

Attempting to secure freedom of speech by making bold statements of opinion is, in fact, simply using the right to speech to try to secure the right to speech.

Practically every newly established nation claims to be a democratic republic, and comes equipped with a constitution that leaves nothing to be desired. And yet, if we observe their record of putting those constitutions into practice, we find to our sorrow that very few make the grade.

Few newborn nations have discovered the importance of freedom of speech for themselves. They merely copy the relevant lines into their constitutions, and most of their people remain ignorant of free speech’s significance. Given this, how can we prevent it from being ignored, distorted, or trampled upon?

We have never lacked champions with the courage to state their dissenting opinions, but the fact is that, in the past, nearly all those champions have paid a heavy price. The real pity is that their sacrifices bought very little real progress. The reasons for this are simple: when so many still believe that speech should be punishable by law, when those in power have a monopoly on all fora for speech, the question of whether or not to punish those who state bold opinions obviously depends entirely on the values and characters of the rulers. So many of those who have spoken out for justice have overlooked this point, and suffered for it. Attempting to secure freedom of speech by making bold statements of opinion is, in fact, simply using the right to speech to try to secure the right to speech. The unspoken assumption is that everyone already understands the significance of freedom of speech—treating an unsolved problem as though it were already resolved. It thus becomes impossible to draw the attention of the majority to the truly crucial issues, or to achieve the primary goal of raising the awareness of the masses.

Since the root of the tragedy is that we have never discovered the principle of free speech for ourselves, we ought to address this lack. Since we ourselves only came to understand the rationales behind freedom of speech after passing through ten years of trouble, and experiencing the bitterness of having our own words turned against us, we should speak from that experience, and be eminently reasonable as we attempt to convince those who do not understand this principle. As we strive for freedom of speech, we must realize that the meaning of this “striving” is to help more people fully grasp it.

Democracy demands courage, but it cannot rely on courage alone.

The first quality required for human enterprise is courage. Realizing freedom of speech will mean resisting the attempt of power to stifle speech, which means a contest of wills. No matter how clear the law is, no matter how perfectly the organs of government are structured, they are not themselves capable of action—their only motive force is the will of the people. Democracy is a bothersome business; it is not the labor of an hour. It must be continually striven for, and it must forever be protected.

Democracy demands courage, but it cannot rely on courage alone. On the contrary, only when democracy can be realized without the shedding of blood can it be said to have truly stable foundations. In the process of democratization, intelligence is of the utmost importance. We must not only dare to uphold truth, we must also be wise in how we do it. In a certain sense, our ability to work for truth and democracy in an intelligent fashion will be crucial to the smooth progression of democratization, particularly in its early stages.

Taking an intelligent approach means finding a principle that people can grasp without the recondite learning, and can uphold without extraordinary courage. It will be a principle that is so self-evident in its correctness that the vast majority of people—regardless of their difference of opinion in other matters—will readily assent to it, and dare to express their support for it. At the same time this principle must lend itself to long-term, incremental advancement, laying a path for future development. Most people feel that, faced with political power, they have only two choices: either all-out resistance, or passive acceptance. We should—in a certain sense, we must—provide a principled stance to those people who are upstanding, kindhearted, and possessed of common sense, but who may not be very deep thinkers, and who while wishing for justice may not be prepared to sacrifice themselves for an ideal. We must give them a principled stance that will help them form a Great Wall in defense of democracy, rather than becoming accomplices to authoritarianism, or leaving them content to be spectators on the sidelines. If no such principle can be found, the limited struggles of an elite minority will never avert the greater tragedy. Democracy would rely on chance opportunity to come about, and would never withstand the storm.

The key is providing those of average courage and intelligence with a fundamental principle that is easily grasped and easily supported. A principle that will safeguard the people’s most fundamental rights, and smooth the way for the future process of democratization. It should provide a foundation for the entire people, one that will never collapse. As I see it, that principle is the freedom of speech.

What is the connection between democracy and modernization? Many comrades at present believe that “without democracy there can be no modernization.” How we wish that this argument were correct… A rough survey of history indicates that this slogan can produce good results, helping convince those who are interested primarily in material advancement that democracy is nevertheless necessary. Yet rigorous theoretical consideration raises many questions against this claim.

Admittedly, under the authoritarian feudalism of the “Gang of Four,” modernization would have been impossible. But we must realize that the “Gang of Four” was not only the most extreme model of authoritarianism, it was also the most crude and incompetent. History shows us other models of authoritarianism that were less extreme and more effective—even some that were equally extreme, yet quite competent. Under these regimes, modernization was hardly impossible; many argued that it was in fact facilitated.

We do not deny the historical examples of modernization without democratization, but we raise the following two criticisms:

1. Economic development under authoritarianism causes suffering, as it is inevitably accompanied by cruel repression. It is deformed, because it tends to sacrifice broad prosperity to narrow vanity. It is short-lived, because it does not rouse the people’s innovative spirit. It is incapable of effective self-adjustment, and thus results in the gradual strengthening of the alienating authoritarian machine. The ultimate result of this type of development is the creation of a military state.

2. Does humankind truly desire nothing more than economic development? Can it be that we have no other, higher demands? Democracy has the advantage of promoting production, but it also has value in and of itself. Human dignity, human rights, and the free development of the human spirit—these are not empty words. Abandoning democracy in favor of pure economic advancement is sure to have disastrous consequences.

In the past, we have had little success in the incremental introduction of democracy. On more than one occasion, movements undertaken in the name of expanding democratic rights have backfired, often leaving us worse off than when we started. It is these historical lessons which have forced us to recognize that, once a direction is chosen, specific solutions become the key to success or failure. As we see it, freedom of speech is the first step in the entire process. So long as our comrades work to accomplish this, we will have sufficient footing to break free of the historical vortex that has us spinning in place, and to move firmly toward our future.

An unprecedented historical regression provides unprecedented opportunity for historical progress. The people of China have only just emerged from years of turmoil, and the wounds still bleed.

All the ink we’ve spilled here has been spilled to convey one single idea: we must realize true freedom of speech. We must enshrine this principle in the hearts of the people. No matter how widely opinions on democracy may diverge, no matter what reservations are expressed about democracy’s implementation, and no matter how people may disagree about other matters, we hope that on the question of freedom of speech there would be no doubts. Readers need not agree with every aspect of our argument, but we hope that they will support our final conclusion. The most important task we are faced with now is to expound, in depth and with resolution, on the principle of freedom of speech, so that it might take firm root in the hearts of the Chinese people.

Looking back over the past few years, China’s repression of speech has been horrifying in its depth, breath, and intensity. An unprecedented historical regression provides unprecedented opportunity for historical progress. The people of China have only just emerged from years of turmoil, and the wounds still bleed. They are deeply resentful of authoritarianism, highly optimistic about democracy, and feel a deep outrage toward the fascist methods of criminalizing speech. We are glad to see that the people are not engaging in blind optimism about a future of peace and prosperity, and they remain cautious and alert.

History provides ample opportunity, but in reality there are few who are able to recognize that opportunity. Nothing is fated to happen, and nothing happens unless the people work for it. Progress may not triumph over regression unless we have a grasp of the fundamentals. If we try to accomplish too much at once, our strength will be divided and we will accomplish nothing. Likewise, if we fail to persevere in our efforts, we will fall short of achieving even that which is eminently possible.

Exposition of freedom of speech is neither as simple as some say—they who claim that it shouldn’t require any great efforts—nor as complicated as others believe, who think it can never be realized. We hope that all right-thinking people who are concerned with the future of the nation will lend their support to the cause of freedom of speech. Our ideal is that, by our persistent efforts, we might help the people truly understand and accept the principle, so that it will take root in China. Our descendants should live in a land where they can think, speak, and write freely. By then they may think it strange, that we once lived in an age when we brought disaster on our heads simply by speaking out loud.

本文旨在论证言论自由,这一工作具有某种别致之处。在完全没有言论自由时,进行这种论证恐怕是不可能,然而,在完全实现了这一自由时,论证它似乎又成为不必要。这个特点常引起人们的误解:以为言论自由问题是一个取决于当权者意志的问题。这种误解导致了对于在理论上讨论言论自由这一工作的忽视,其结果是完全窒息了言论自由这一原则的价值和活力。

公民的言论自由,是宪法上公民各项政治权利的第一条。一个人失去了表达自己愿望和意见的权利,势必成为奴隶和工具。当然,有了言论权利不等于有了一切,但是,丧失言论权利则必然导致失去一切。众所周知,在力学中,支点的作用是何等重要,仅管支点本身不能够作功,但唯有在它之上,杠杆的作功才成为可能。据说,杠杆原理的发现者阿基米德说过这样一句话:“给我一个支点,我能举起地球。”在政治生活中,言论自由不正是这样的一个支点吗?

什么是言论自由?那就是发表各种意见的自由。好话、坏话、正确的话、错误的话,统统包括。如果说言论自由仅止于以当权者意志许可范围之内为限,那麽试问,古今中外,还有哪一个国家的言论是不“自由”的呢?这样一来,我们神圣宪法上的言论自由条款,岂不成了最无聊的废话?

一个政权只有在符合人民愿望时,才有存在的理由。这就必然要求,最起码的,人民可以毫无顾忌地表示对这个政权的真实态度,换言之,这个政权就决不能禁止人们发表反对自己的意见。一个有权禁止一切反对意见的政权可以担保永远被“人民”所拥护,因为它把所有反对自己的都排除在“人民”之外。请大家想一想,如果一个政权宣誓要忠于人民,但是究竟谁算“人民”,谁不算“人民”,又必须由这个政权自己来划定,而它正是以别人是否拥护自己为标准,这不是一种赤裸裸的循环论证吗?假使这套逻辑可以成立,天下就没有一个不受“人民”拥护的政权了l

任何事物被破坏,总是从边缘开始。镇压言论,总是从那些被当时大多数人真心真意地认为是反动的言论开刀。这样,大多数人不仅意识不到这种剥夺的非法,反而会支持、去主动参与实现这种剥夺。没有大多数人这种自动充当为工具,这种剥夺本来是不可能实现的.但是,一旦人民参与了这种非法的剥夺,就意味着言论自由原则被冲开了缺口。从此后,这种剥夺便会日甚一日。人们既把非法的刑罚加于他人,就使自己处于失去法律确保的可悲境地。越是参与对他人言论的镇压,就越是失去了自己畅所欲言的权利,而越失去了畅所欲言的权利,就越是裹胁参与他人运用这种权利的迫害。这种恶性循环的结果,必然是螺丝钉越拧越紧,泥塘里越陷越深。

当代专制主义最重要的特点是,它不是象古代那样,公开作为人民的敌对力量而存在,相反,它倒是以最直接地表达民意作为自己存在的理由。它的统治的奥秘,与其说基于暴力,不如说基于欺骗。因为它的暴力工具,归根结底,也是依靠对组成这种暴力工具的人民进行欺骗的结果。

所谓欺骗,有两层意思,其一是说,在专制怪物最初崛起之时,它骗取了一个占多数的人民的真心支持。第二层欺骗:那便是通过禁止言论自由的手段隔断了人们交流经验的途径,从而造成一种他们继续为多数人所拥护的虚假外貌。

宪法的作用何在?就在于为一切爱好民主的人们提供一个集合点。比如说言论自由,一旦更多的人们理解了它的确切含义,那就等于为他们的统一行动确立了共同纲领。只要发生了权力侵犯言论的事情,一切爱好民主的人们就不约而同地,在禁止权力压制言论一事上采取共同的立场,尽管他们对面临取缔的言论本身可能持有极不相同的看法。

我们的前辈们在为民主而斗争的时候,犯下了一个致命的错误,他们没有能让民主的最基本原则――言论自由,深入人心。既然大多数人们都不懂得言论自由的完整含义和重要作用,包括一些很有知识很有能力的人都是如此,这就为专制主义者提供了最有利的突破口。言论自由既是民主的第一个要求,又是它的最后一道防线。有了言论自由这个眼,民主这盘棋就全活了,民主化的过程就会保持不可逆行的趋势。

差不多每个新兴国家都自称为民主的、共和的,他们都有一部大体完备的宪法。然而,如果查阅他们宪法实施的记录,大部分国家恐怕只有不及格。

原因之一是:新兴国家一般都没有经历那种相应的发现经验的过程。新兴国家一般就没有这种发现言论自由原则的经验过程,他们只是简单地把言论自由的条文抄过来了事,致使大部分人对这一原则的确切含义和重大价值都不明白,既然如此,那又怎么能保证它不受忽略,不受歪曲,不受践踏呢?

我们并不缺少敢于大胆发表不同意见的勇士,过去的事实是,他们差不多都为其所坚持的观点付出了沉重的代价,遗憾的是这些牺牲所换得的进步并不十分显著,其中原因并不复杂,当多少人还认为因言可以治罪,当权者在垄断全部言论阵地时,发表大胆的不同意见会不会遭受惩罚,显然就是几乎完全取决于当权者信念与素质的问题。多少杖义执言的人们就是由于忽视了这一点而尝尽了苦头。这种以大胆发表不同意见的方式去争取言论自由,事实上是以运用言论权利争取言论权利,无形中假定了大家已经懂得了言论自由的意义,把尚未解决的问题当成了已经解决完毕的问题。因此,不能把广大人民的注意力集中到真正关键的问题上,这就起不到应有的提高人民群众觉悟的作用。

既然悲剧根源之一在于我们没有经历发现言论自由原则的经验过程,那么我们就应该补上它;既然多数人不懂得这一原则的含义与价值,那么我们就必须阐明它;既然连我们自己也不过是在这十年浩劫中尝到了木匠戴枷的滋味后才懂得关于言论自由的种种道理,那么我们就应当现身说法,用一种充分讲理的态度说服那些不明此理的人们。言论自由是需要继续争取的,所谓“争取”,它的真正意义就是让更多的人民理解它、掌握它。

人类为了进取,勇敢是第一个品质要求。实行言论自由,就是要抵抗强权对言论的压制,这本身就是一种意志上的较量。不论法律条文多么明晰,不论政治机构如何完善,它们本身毕竟是不能行动的,它们唯一的动力就是人们的决心。民主是件麻烦事,它不能一劳永逸。它时时需要争取,历来有待争取,并永远需要保卫。

民主需要勇气,但它又不能完全依赖于勇气。恰恰相反,只有在实现民主而无需抛头洒血的情况下,民主才算是有了更广泛的基础。因此在实现民主的过程中,明智同样至关重要。我们不仅要敢于坚持真理,还要善于坚持真理。这对于民主进程的最初阶段,意义格外重大。从某种意义上说,我们能不能善于坚持真理,坚持民主,乃是民主能否顺利发展的关键。

要明智,就意味着必须寻找出这样一种原则,人们无需乎多少深奥的知识就能领会它,无需乎多少勇气也敢于坚持它,这个原则是那么简明、正确,以至于绝大部分人,不论他们其他见解有多少差异,都很容易一致表示赞同,并且不害怕公开表明这一点。同时,这一原则还必须具有稳步推进的特性,能够为以后的发展开拓道路。

通常人们总认为在强权面前只可能有两种选择:要么舍命反对,要么任随摆布。我们应该,从某种意义上来讲是必须,为相当一部分正直、善良、具有常识,但不一定思想深刻、怀有正义却未必甘为一种信念献身的人们,提供一个原则立场,使他们能够成为维护民主的长城,而不是成为专制的帮凶,也不仅仅满足于做台下的看客。如果找不到这么一种原则,少数优秀人物的孤军奋战不过是一曲曲壮烈的悲剧,民主的实现只能靠偶然的契机,而且势必经受不起真正的风浪。

关键在于要为具有一般智力与勇气的常人提供一个他们既容易领悟,有不害怕公开坚持的原则,一个最基本的原则,这个原则能够维护人们的基本权利,又能够为民主的发展开辟广阔的前景;它应该是整个民主的基础,并永远不会崩塌。依我们看,这个原则就是言论自由。

民主与现代化究竟是什么关系?目前不少同志认为是“没有民主就没有现代化”。我们非常乐意这个论断是真确的。从实践中粗浅地考查,这个口号确实起到了良好作用,它促使那些仅仅想过好日子的人也注意到健全民主的必要。然而,我们倘从理论上严格推敲,这种提法便显现出种种值得商榷之处。

诚然,在“四人帮”那套封建专制下,现代化是绝对实现不了的。但是应该看到,“四人帮”型号的专制主义不仅属于最极端的一种专制主义,而且也属于最粗糙最低能的一种。历史告诉我们,还存在一些不那麽极端而较有效率的专制类型,甚至还有一种同样极端、然而仍具有效率的专制。在这些型号的专制下,实现现代化并非不可能,而且,还曾经一度被不少人认为是更简捷、更有效。

我们并不否认历史上曾有过不民主而现代化的事例,但是对于这种现象,我们要提出以下两个方面的批评。

一、专制造成的经济发展是痛苦的,因为它势必伴以残酷的迫害;是畸形的,因为它总是倾向于为了虚荣而牺牲繁荣;是短暂的,因为它不利于调动人们的首创精神;它缺乏有效的自我调节,因而到头来总是日益加强了那个越来越异化的专制机器。这种发展形式的最高成就就是造成了一个军事强国。

二、还有一个必须澄清的问题:人类是否仅仅追求经济的发展?抑或还有其他的、甚至更高的要求?民主不但有促进生产的好处,而且它本身自有价值。人的尊严、人的权利、人性的全面和谐的自由发展并不是一句空话。因此,放弃民主去换取经济进步,必将贻害无穷。

过去,我们在逐步推进民主方面是做得不大成功的。好几次以扩大民主为宗旨的运动,到头来竟以缩小民主为结局,终点居然落到起点之后的。正是鉴于过去的教训,我们才不得不意识到:在确定了方向之后,步骤就成了决定成败的关键。照我们看来,言论自由就是整个进程的第一步。只要更多的同志致力于落实第一步的工作,那么我们才能有足够的把握,冲出原地兜圈子的历史徊流,稳步驶向宽阔的未来。
我们在这里千言万语,只是要表明一个意思:一定要实现真正的言论自由。一定要让言论自由的原则深入人心。无论人们对民主的理解还有多大分歧,无论人们对实行民主有多少审慎的顾虑,无论人们在其他方面有些什么不同的观点,在实现言论自由的这一点上,大家总是可以没有什么疑义的吧。读者不必赞同我们的每一个论据,但是希望他能支持言论自由这个总的论点。当前最重要的一个工作就是深入不懈地阐明言论自由,真正让它在中国人民心中扎下根来。

回顾这些年来,中国的禁锢言论,无论就深度、广度,还是烈度,都达到了骇人听闻的地步。空前的历史倒退为真正的历史进步提供了空前的机会。今天的中国人刚刚摆脱了那场浩劫,伤痕尚在,血迹犹存,对专制有深切的痛恨,对民主有热烈的追求,对因言治罪这一套法西斯手段怀有极大的义愤与敏感。值得庆幸的是,人们并没有盲目乐观,以为今后就必定是千年盛世,这就足以使他们保持警惕。

历史并不缺乏机会,但是现实中却常常缺乏认识机会的人。没有什么事情是注定要实现的,除非人们为之奋斗。进步不一定能战胜倒退,除非我们抓住了事物根本一环。如果我们希图做的事情太多,很可能导致力量分散而一事无成;另外,如果我们不坚持全力去不懈地努力,那么本来可以得到的事情也不一定办得到。深入阐明言论自由,它既不像某些人想象的那么简单,似乎值不得再花大力气去做;也不像某些人想象的那么复杂,似乎根本就无实现的可能。我们希望一切关心国家前途命运的有识之士,对言论自由这个问题都能给予更大的关切。

我们的理想是:通过我们顽强不懈的努力,让言论自由的原则真正深入人心,在中国扎下根来,我们的子孙后代,应该生活在这样的土地上,他们能自由地想、自由地说、自由地写作。那时,他们可能会奇怪,怎么还会有这种时代,单单是说了几句话就招来杀身之祸?

G

Hu Ping, a pro-democracy activist since 1979, received a master’s degree in philosophy from Beijing University in 1981. He is former chairman of the Chinese Alliance for Democracy, the New York-based editor of the Chinese-language magazine Beijing Spring, and is a member of the board of directors of Human Rights in China.

Wuer Kaixi was a major student organizer in the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989. He is best known for being filmed censuring Chinese Premier Li Peng in his hospital gown, having been hospitalized from the effects of a hunger strike he coordinated. He represented Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo at the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in 2010.

Eric Abrahamsen is a translator based in Beijing. He is the recipient of a PEN translation grant for Wang Xiaobo’s My Spiritual Homeland and a NEA grant for Xu Zechen’s Running Through Zhongguancun.

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