China's "Communist" Status

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Tue Oct 5 23:19:42 MDT 1999


    Let me try to answer your questions.

>Hello, I just joined this list yesterday in order to learn more about Karl
>Marx, and possibly some of the teachings of Mao Tse Tung. Here are my
>questions. I hope someone can comment.
>In order to be considered a true "Communist" nation, there is a large
>revolutionary process that goes on. Is China in that process? How far have
>they come? And what are your thoughts on true and complete communism and
>well the nation would function both internally and internationally under
>this system?

"Communism"  is used in different ways by different people. But in the
strict, Marxist, sense, there is no "communist" nation, because "communism"
would be a completely different kind of society, which would be based on
voluntary cooperation on a world scale.

The "communist" countries of the 20th century, all viewed themselves as
being socialist countries. "Socialism" in this sense is the transition from
capitalist society to the future communist society. Marx and Engels assumed
what would happen is that the working people in the more economically
developed capitalist countries would make a socialist revolution first, but
that isn't how things turned out. Socialist revolutions have all come to
power in relatively underdeveloped countries, and thus have had to face the
problem of contending with much more powerful capitalist countries,
something Marx and Engels never expected.

>Just one more: If I am correct in assuming that Marx wished to turn
>control of the entire country to the proletariat, then how did he predict
>this would work? (ie. elections etc...)

Actually, Marx disliked the creation of utopias. He thought the "right"
forms of government would be developed in the actual movement, that you
could not predict them beforehand. He did say the new government would be a
"dictatorship of the proletariat" but he used "dictatorship" in a special
way. Marx always believed that, despite their democratic forms, governments
like those in England and the United States were in essence "dictatorships"
of the "capitalists." What he meant by this is that these governments in
essence defend a society organized along capitalist lines.  All the laws and
institutions are designed to facilitate the smooth working of a capitalist
society and economy. In this narrow sense "dictatorship" doesn't talk about
the form of government, but is meant to emphasize the class nature of such

There was, late in Marx's life, one working class revolution that did come
to power, called the Paris Commune, which survived for less than three
months. The Commune was organized simply by neighborhoods electing delegates
to a central council. The delegates received the same pay as an average
worker and could be recalled and replaced at any time. The council and its
members directly oversaw all the parts of the government, there was no
"separation of branches" or system of "checks and balances." Marx said that
this was the form at last discovered of the workers government.

In Russia in 1917, a very similar institution to the commune arose, called
the Soviets (the Russian word for council) which functioned in many ways
similarly to the Paris commune. What Lenin, who was the central leader of
the Russian Revolution, thought about these councils and how they would
serve as the basis for a new society you can read in a pamphlet he wrote at
that time called the State and Revolution. It is fairly tough sledding
because, as is typical in revolutionary movements, it was essentially a
polemic with people he disagreed with. Essentially what he does is scream
until he's blue in the face that these lowly "councils" were exactly the
same kind of thing as the commune and what they should do is take the power.
Which they did.

For a few years these workers (and farmers) councils actually ran the
country; but eventually a new bureaucratic apparatus fairly similar in many
ways to our own governments developed and the original soviets died out. How
and why that happened is a very long and complicated story. If you're
interested in it, one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution, Leon
Trotsky, wrote a book on the whole process, "The revolution betrayed,"
analyzing it from a Marixst perspective. In it, Trotsky predicted --in the
1930s-- what would actually happen to this kind of bureaucratic "socialism,"
or "workers state" as he preferred to call it, some fifty years later. He
said essentially this kind of bureaucratized socialism was a contradiction
in terms and was inherently unstable; it either went forward to a democratic
socialism or went back to capitalism.

The other big socialist revolutions of the 20th century, the Chinese,
Vietnamese and Cuban, all had quite a different "look" about them than the
early Russian one. None of them started as workers socialist revolutions
against capitalism, as had occurred in Russia and Paris, but as revolutions
against colonialism and for national independence. In all three the driving
force was a rural-based guerrilla army. And in all three cases, the
revolutions "became" socialist sometime after they had come to power. None
of them did develop councils like the Soviets or the Paris Commune during
the revolutionary struggle, although later, in the 1970s, Cuba reshaped the
structure of its government to one modeled in many ways on the Paris

The other socialist countries that have existed arose as a result of the
second world war. Upon the defeat of Germany and Japan, the alliance between
the three victorious powers (the Soviet Union, the United States and Great
Britain) broke down. The U.S. through the "Marshall Plan" and other efforts
rebuilt the countries its armies had conquered as capitalist countries; the
Soviets sponsored little copies of their own system in the places they had
conquered. In the end, the bureaucratized socialism that was transplanted
from the Soviet Union proved as fragile as the original. And while to us the
40 or so years it took for most of those systems to come crashing down may
seem like a long time, it really isn't when you consider how long it takes
for new social systems to evolve, take root and mature.

>Your thoughts and comments would be appreciated! Thanks in advance.

If you are interested in learning more about Marxism, probably the best
place to start is the Communist Manifesto. Written in 1848, when Marx and
Engels were young rebels in their 20s, there is a lot in it that's pretty
out of date. Fortunately, Marx and Engels lived fairly long lives, and they
wrote several introductions to various editions of the Manifesto where they
point out what parts were mostly of historical interest, and which parts
contain the real hard core marxist theory, so to speak.

I think that's the best starting point because the kinds of questions you
raise suggest you're just starting to learn about marxism. I think the best
way to do it is just to go to the original source, rather than some later

>boone at


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