Putting Henry Liu in context

Craven, Jim jcraven at SPAMclark.edu
Wed Oct 13 12:48:51 MDT 1999

-----Original Message-----
From: Louis Proyect [mailto:lnp3 at panix.com]
Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 1999 6:33 AM
To: marxism at lists.panix.com
Cc: philion at hawaii.edu
Subject: Putting Henry Liu in context

>Now I don't know anything about Brenner, and I don't know that much about
>the historical development of capitalism, so I am not going to participate
>in this argument. But let me say that I do know that Steve Philion's
>opinions about nationalist ideology and class oppression in China aren't
>rooted in a Eurocentric fear of third worldism. Steve knows a hell of a lot

>about what has been happening to the Chinese working class in the "reform

I regard the work of people like Gerard Greenfield, who writes on Chinese
labor, to be essential. He was subbed to the list twice, but I think the
volume overwhelmed him. I have also crossposted articles that he sent me on
several occasions.

Henry Liu is a completely different story that I'd like to elaborate on
now. As some people are aware, Henry is an extremely successful investor in
his 60s who still adheres to the original Maoist vision of the 1950s. He
tends to defend post-Maoist Chinese government policies of today on a too
reflexive basis, but it is clear from discussions that I've had with him
and his posts on various email lists, including this one, that it is the
Chinese revolution that inspires him and not foreign enterprises on the
seacoast. His uncle was a member of the Chinese Communist Party's central
committee for decades and a major influence on him growing up.

Put yourself in his shoes. You and Steve are young scholars with socialist
sympathies, which in this day and age is to be applauded. It would be easy
to throw all this away and get degrees in finance and jobs paying $60,000 a
year. So your sacrifice is admirable.

But try to imagine that you got a degree in finance this year or next and
took a job with some Wall Street investment bank. You start at $60,000 and
then get promoted on a regular basis until you make partner. You are
surrounded by people who believe in capitalism and who are rewarded
handsomely. By the time you reach your mid-40s, you are probably making $5
million per year. You own a summer home in the Hamptons, drive a BMW, eat
at pricey French restaurants and have ZERO contact with socialists. What
chance is there that you still retain the socialist convictions of your
youth? Think about that next time when you question Henry's core beliefs.

Henry has helped to publicize Blackfoot Indian issues in a Chinese language
daily. He has made clear to me on numerous occasions that he sees his role
in life as being a benefactor to the revolutionary movement. What shape
that takes nobody can say at the present moment, but he is excited to have
made the acquaintance of American radicals through these various email
lists, including me.

Henry is in China right now having meetings with members of the CP whose
agenda revolves around pushing foreign policy to the left and opposing
privatization. He also meets regularly in NYC with Embassy officials who
are hostile to the right turn. Those are his politics, not turning China
into a clone of South Korea. If he believed that South Korea was a proper
model for Chinese society, he wouldn't have had brutal fights with people
like Brad DeLong on PEN-L, an open defender of neoliberalism.

Louis Proyect

(The Marxism mailing list: http://www.panix.com/~lnp3/marxism.html)

Comment (Jim Craven):

Personally I wish Henry Liu and his portfolios well. I have gained much from
the breadth and depth of his knowledge, his passion and energy and from his
obvious deep commitment to radical change to the kind of society in which
his portfolios would not do too well if continuing to exist at all.

We live under a capitalist order and all make compromises ever day to
continue to exist. I have no problem with an economist that works for the
World Bank to turn a dollar; I do have a problem if that economist mouths
and legitimates the Summers "calculus" of "rationality" and "efficiency" and
the overall sick twisted paradigm behind it. I have never seen Henry support
capitalism, rat-race individualism or even speculation as a real wealth
creation process. I have never seen Henry support the grotesque and mounting
wealth and income inequalities than emanate from the inner imperatives and
derivative dynamics of capitalism--especially from the types of speculative
activities in which he is involved. I have no idea what Henry does with his
money but I suspect that he puts a lot of it into various just causes that
need more than $5.00 contributions to continue. But I do know he does his
homework and has some very penetrating and illuminating insights about not
only China, but also about many other past and contemporary issues in other
parts of the world.

The only difference between Henry and most of us is not in gaining
materially through equities and other forms of speculation and
arbitrage--those of us who have retirement plans etc--but rather the
magnitudes of gains, the types of instruments from which speculative gains
are gathered and perhaps even the uses of some of those gains. "Let he who
is without "sin" cast the first volume of "Das Kapital" or "On
Contradiction" and "On Practice"..."

Jim C

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