Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

A Tale Of Two Chinas And - Communism?

As President-for-life, Xi Jinping stood proudly in front of the Mao mausoleum, smirking in his Mao-style outfit and saluting as the vast parade of military goose-stepped smartly through the immense Tiananmen Square. This parade was accompanied and followed by the usual display of deadly weaponry from tanks to missiles, and later by civilians singing and dancing. All this, on 1 October 2019 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Maoist People's Republic of China.

This massive display and pageantry was not unlike those favoured in Nuremberg under Hitler's regime. It struck the same themes - nationalism and flags and bands and militarism.

There was by contrast a very different scene that day in the streets of Hong Kong. After months of regular, persistent street protests, often confronting police ready and able to act with violence, and after official warnings, the crowds of mostly young protesters were again thronging the streets, and again the police and protesters used violence.

And the two events were linked by the memory of the events in Beijing and 400 other Chinese cities in 1989. That year was one of a huge youthful protests, starting in the spring and finally crushed in early June, by military force and the Tiananmen Square massacre, with hundreds or may be thousands killed and many more injured.

The five demands of 1989 were to end corruption in the ruling party, for democratic reforms, and for freedom of the press, of speech and of association. In 1989 the ruling party found those demands intolerable, and used tanks and guns to crush the young. And President-for-life Xi is the proud heir to that policy. Today, the Hong Kong protest movement has also unified around a set of five demands, like those of 1989.

Under Xi's rule, China has developed into a major player in global capitalism; has come to dominate many markets; has developed a modern military machine, including ICBMs and the latest in hypersonic gliders; has occupied Tibet; has constructed and fortified man-made islands on coral atolls in the geo-strategic and oil-rich South China Seas; has developed advanced IT and facial recognition software, linked to a massive database which is intended to include not just the Uighur Muslim minority but ultimately to cover the whole population. Its economy, with its cheap consumer goods and ever-so-cheap labour force, is a significant force in modern capitalist trade.

Historically, China today plays the same role as Britain in 1848 when Marx and Engels wrote in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO:-

The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarous, nations into civilization. The cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians' intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate...

But today the boot is on the other foot. The British Empire has long since gone from the scene and the once all-important United States is no longer the economically dominant power-house of innovation it once was. But historically China, with its huge and low-paid but skilled workforce, and largely untapped mineral resources, and regional dominance, is now the rising technological and economic superpower.

Yet still the mass media insist that this is 'Communism', a 'Communist state', run by the Chinese 'Communist Party'. That of course is an old tune, played over and over again, ever since the 1917 Russian revolution, when Lenin and the Bolsheviks claimed that theirs was a Socialist / Communist revolution. Their opponents in the West were delighted to associate Marxism with this new form of a collective dictatorship - the 'dictatorship of the Party'. With Lenin and his one-party state, with state censorship and secret police, any pretence of Soviet Russia being 'democratic' evaporated like the morning dew, fast.

Stalin, like Trotsky, followed in Lenin's footsteps, building up his 'cult of the individual', backed by the Party and state-controlled media, expanding a vast network of jails and prison camps, and crushing any possible whisper of dissent. This was then taken as a role model for later revolutions, and not only in China.

Years before the Long March and his victory in the civil war, Mao had come under Moscow's influence, and so his regime was intended to follow the example of the Soviet Union. Just as Stalin had destroyed the peasants with his policies of forced collectivisation, so Mao aimed to collectivise the Chinese peasants. Both wanted to use state force to speedily develop modern industry - hence Mao's Great Leap Forward, with its wasteful backyard steel smelting. Both mistakenly relied for increasing agricultural production on the fake science peddled by Lysenko. As dictators often do, they both insisted that they alone knew best: protests from engineering or agricultural experts were disregarded and brushed aside.

In both regimes, the 'Party' was simply the instrument of whoever held power, and without opposition, with all independent voices silenced by terror, the totalitarian system became an all-powerful regime.

The Myth of 'Liberal' Capitalism

In the United States with its 18th century constitution, the idea that capitalism means freedom is used to express horror at 'Communist' dictatorships. This is a naIve black and white view of the world: the good guys are for freedom, the bad guys want to "impose Socialism". And only with entrepreneurial capitalism can you have freedom for the individual - 'collectivism' is just tyranny and dictatorship.

However, the capitalist system is simply a system of commodity production - production for profit based on the exploitation of the wage-slave class. In fact, capitalism can exist under any sort of political regime whether democratic, dictatorial or pseudo-socialist. So-called 'free enterprise' is no guarantor of political freedom or free speech, freedom of the press etc. Private enterprise operates quite well under despots, military juntas and dictatorships, just so long as their liking for bribery and corruption does not go too far and eliminate their profits. In some circumstances it can even be useful for the capitalist state to run certain public services, utilities, natural monopolies, etc., as a 'collective capitalist'.

Such is the world we all live in - a world of production for profit, with global mega-corporations operating around the planet, exploiting wage-workers wherever they are, for the profit and enrichment of a tiny minority of the world's population. It is the same economic system - both in mainland China and in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, in both Koreas, in Japan and Russia, etc. Wherever you go on this unfortunate polluted planet, you find always the same economic system, the worldwide capitalist system - one where the many work as wage-slaves for the minority class.

This is a system that all Socialists are working to put an end to. Not the phony 'socialists' of the Labour Party and other reformist parties, and not the Leninists, Trotskyists, Stalinists, Maoists, etc. with their defence of the indefensible - such as the so-called 'Communist' Peoples Republic of China. Remember, as you hear or read via the mass media and from our politicians spouting about the evils of 'Communism', you are on the receiving end of propaganda. On this subject Hitler (or his ghost-writer) is worth quoting: "The broad mass of a nation... will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one" (MEIN KAMPF, 1925, vol 1, ch 10).

Since 1917 Socialists have been battling against the "big lie", peddled by quack ideologists, politicians and the mass media who constantly repeat the lie that Socialism / Communism / Marxism is all about totalitarian dictatorship. While capitalism supposedly means freedom and democracy, free speech and the rest. In fact, Lenin's plan for revolution was a top-down, vanguard-led, political coup d'etat which meant minority rule, holding power by force, i.e. as a dictatorship. But that was poles apart from what Marx and Engels campaigned for: a social revolution democratically achieved by the working class itself, organising itself as "a class in and for itself". And that is still in the future.

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