re-maoist economics

Michael Luftmensch MLuftmensch at hubcap.mlnet.com
Mon May 6 10:07:15 MDT 1996


re-maoist economics

A few weeks ago, Chris challenged Gina on maoist economics. Or
perhaps it was the other way around. In any case, they met at the
Red Canal. Gina extolled the heroism and self-sacrifice of the people
while Chris remarked on the low rate of agricultural productivity
in China at the end of the Cultural Revolution - as compared to that of the
United States.

Malecki in exile and bodhi also briefly had their say. Malecki lit a
votive candle in front of his Lenin icon and bodhi observed that
capitalism is more lucrative than socialism - an observation with
which the Chinese ruling class would certainly agree. Gina, meanwhile,
questioned Chris on his values - capitalist or socialist?- to which
he replied that workers  do not want to work so hard their arms swell,
in order to receive a mention in a pamphlet on socialist emulation, if
they will never get a television as a result. & Brian Carnell - who had
been relatively quiet up till then (perhaps watching television?) -
started to cheer.

At that point the discussion - prematurely? - more or less
fizzled out.

I think the questions posed, however, are of great interest, although
I doubt very much that the Red Canal was an auspicious place to meet.
Likewise, I tend to doubt that there is such a thing as "maoist economics" -
it seems to me, rather, that Mao was simply suspicious of an economic
rationality that placed profits before people - the global neurosis
of capitalism.

So, like Malecki in exile, bodhi and Carnell,
I'd like to throw in my two cents worth.

I'm neither a maoist nor an economist. However, I am ready to question
the underlying  argument put forward by Chris -  without subscribing
to Gina's superhumanism (which I think invariably leads to
the politics of coercion).

In global terms, capitalism has brought about a vast polarization of
wealth, whereby the development of the metropolitan centres has
been achieved at the expense of the periphery. For this reason, the
whole notion of "catching up" seems highly dubious. How can the
underdeveloped countries "catch up" without new continents to
plunder and colonize?

China's rate of growth during the Cultural Revolution, while
lagging behind that of the United States (which at that moment
reached a ceiling), compared very favourably with other
countries in what was called the "Third World."  Whether it
could have been sustained or improved upon is a question that
is beyond me. But I do think the need to "catch up" tends to
rule out an alternative path to development. And for this reason,
I  consider it to have been tragic that the Chinese leaders' realpolitic
led them to funnel vast resources into heavy industry and the
production of armaments, nuclear bombs, satellites, etc., thereby
tipping the balance in favour of the neutrality of technology -
white cats, black cats, as long as they catch mice - rather than
going further down the road to some form of socialist relations
of production.

(This was, however, within the Leninist mold. It was Lenin,
after all, who propagated the idea that socialism was electricity
plus soviets - and then went ahead to quash the soviets.)

China's present high growth rate is fueled by the investment of
foreign capital. Aprox.  40 per cent of the money put into developing
countries in the last fifteen years went to China. However, that
makes its growth highly unstable. For if international capital
finds tomorrow that investing in India will bring greater profits,
China's growth rate will suffer accordingly.

The other side of the coin of the impressive growth is the effect it
is having on working people in China: the great dislocation of people,
the class polarization of Chinese society, and the attack on socialist
rights - the "iron rice bowl" - are all necessary if China is to
continue to attract foreign capital.

If the introduction of capitalist market relations is the path which
all must follow, or suffer swollen arms as a result, where does that
leave the disenfranchised billions who are extraneous to the system?

Michael





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